What is the summary for Beat to Quarters?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is the American title for the original novel The Happy Return. It is the very first of the Captain Horatio Hornblower novels and documents many of his adventures at sea.

It is the early 1800s and Hornblower is in command of the Lydia in order to sail from Nicaragua and supply Don Julian (a spanish revolutionary) with guns and gun powder. But it isn't long before Hornblower realizes the man is nuts, calling himself "El Supremo" and declaring himself a god. Anyone who doesn't worship him is brutally murdered.

The captain comes upon another Spanish ship called the Natividad. Because it is a stronger Spanish ship, Hornblower decides to wait until nightfall in order to take it over. Hornblower hides his own ship until then, and eventually takes over the Natividad. Unfortunately, el supremo demands all of the reinforcements from the ship so that he can have a Navy. Hornblower has no choice but to give in.

The next ship that Hornblower comes upon tells him that there is a new struggle against Napoleon. England and Spain have come together to fight France. 

Eventually, el supremo is put in his proper place and Hornblower takes an English woman named Lady Barbara on board. He begins to take her back to England after he defeats the Natividad.

Lady Barbara and Hornblower are attracted to each other. Just as they are about to embrace Hornblower realizes that he shouldn't be involved this way with the passenger on his ship. He also cannot afford to disturb her prominent father in England. Therefore, Hornblower gives the excuse that he is already married. Eventually, Lady Barbara transfers to another ship and Hornblower continues his adventures. 

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