Author’s note: This was written from the prompt challenge, "Write a story involving Horatio and Archie swinging from the ship’s rigging."
“I seem to be facing a singular case of ennui this morning,” Hornblower greeted Kennedy one morning. “Let’s attach some ropes to the rigging and swing from them.”
“What for?” Kennedy inquired politely.
“I don’t know, get some exercise, impress girls…”
“Which ones did you have in mind?”
This caught Hornblower for a minute, then he realized his friend’s intent that there were no girls to be found at sea and scowled darkly. “Come on—it’ll be fun.”
Kennedy gave in like a rubber chicken having its leg twisted. “Fine. But I thought you were afraid of heights?”
“Well, maybe this will help me get over it,” Hornblower reasoned. Realizing the sense in this, Kennedy agreed and soon the ropes were hung from the highest yard arm. “I’ll go first!” Hornblower cried. He seized a rope and swung out high over the ship; he made it about five feet away from the mast and then slid all the way down the rope, getting rugburn on his hands.
“My turn!” Kennedy gloated. Grabbing the rope, he catapulted into the air, doing his best Tarzan yell. He landed gracefully in the fos’cle. Styles and Oldroyd clapped from below. Hornblower shot them a look that seared and they shut up.
Hornblower wasn’t yet cheesed off, but he was definitely in the butter stage. “Let me try again,” he requested, and made the trek back halfway up the mainmast. He swung out over the ship and, although not quite able to muster a Tarzan yell, he did do a pretty good imitation of Arthur Dent waking up in his prehistoric cave. “I made it!” he shouted happily once he had smacked into the second mast and grabbed a hold of it.
Pretty soon, the two Lieutenants were swinging back and forth like pendulums—and happy ones at that. This was what it was like to be a swashbuckling hero, Hornblower thought! He just needed to run down to his cabin and grab his sword, then practice with that in his teeth.
Just then, Pellew strutted up onto the quarterdeck and ruined everything. Eyes snapping like scissors, he bellowed, “WHAT IS THIS RUMPUS???!!!!”
Hornblower, who had just reached the peak of his swing, lost his hold and plopped into the sea. “Man overboard!!!” shouted Matthews, who had been waiting to say that for the past hour, and tossed a life-preserver into the water. He’d been muttering “Someone’s gonna be crying in about a minute” to Styles and Oldroyd the whole time that the officers had been goofing off above. Kennedy wanted to finish off somewhat more gracefully, but fared worse because he accidentally kicked off Pellew’s fancy hat with his feet as he swung past. “He’s really persnickety about that hat,” Styles confided to Oldroyd.
Pretty soon, Hornblower, looking like a drowned rat, and Kennedy were lined up in front of the furious Pellew like prisoners in front of a firing squad. “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, SIRS??!!” he bellowed.
The two Lieutenants went fishing for excuses. “Trying to alleviate my bad circulation…”(Hornblower), “Wanted a breath of fresh air…”(Kennedy), “Testing the strength of the new batch of rope we picked up at Gibraltar…”(Hornblower), “Checking out a ship on the horizon from multiple different angles…”(Kennedy), “Trying to achieve that new wind-blown look that’s all the rage in Brest…”(Hornblower).
“HOW DARE YOU SULLY MY PRESENCE WITH SUCH ABOMINABLE EXCUSES!!!” Pellew bellowed. “UNFORTUANTELY, I HAVE NO PUNISHMENT I CAN GIVE YOU FOR SUCH BEHAIVOR, EXCEPT TO PLACE YOU ON CONTINUAL WATCH, WHICH I HESITATE STRONGLY TO DO AFTER THIS INCIDENT. YOU’RE BOTH RELIEVED!!!!”
Well, Hornblower and Kennedy definitely had the wind-blown look after being blasted by the sound-waves coming out of Pellew’s tightly pursed mouth. They quickly left the deck, leaving Oldroyd to untie their ropes.
At least, they assumed that was what he was doing up there…
“Did you just hear a Tarzan yell?” Kennedy suddenly asked.