“Archie,” said Horatio one morning as the two stood on the quarterdeck of the Indy, “I’m bored.”
“I know,” said Archie comfortingly. “So am I.”
Horatio took a deep breath. “So, I’ve been thinking…”
Archie shook his head. “A dangerous thing to do, Horatio.”
“So I’ve been thinking,” Horatio continued, “That we should rig some ropes from the upper yardarms and see if we can swing from rigging to rigging.”
“I dunno. Exercise, to impress beautiful girls…”
Archie sighed. “Horatio, I hate to break it to you, but there aren’t any girls to impress. I know you’re devilishly handsome and all and could probably charm the garlic smell off a Frenchman, but we’re on the Indy in the middle of the Channel somewhere. There are no girls.”
“Damn – I forgot.”
Archie sighed. Horatio was a good man and a good friend, but man, he could be so thick sometimes…
“But,” Horatio continued, “we can still do it anyway.”
“Do what?” Archie had blithely started thinking of something else.
“Swing from the rigging, Archie! Weren’t you paying attention?”
“Sorry, sorry…” said Archie placatingly. “Well, if that’s what you wish to do, than go right ahead. I’m sure Matthews wouldn’t mind if you used that rope over there that he just spent two hours tidying up.”
It was but the work of a moment for an experienced seaman like Horatio to climb up and fix the rope to the upper yardarm. Granted, he did get stuck there for a few moments when he saw how high up he was and Archie had to talk him down again, but aside from that minor incident there were no problems and soon Horatio was ready to start swinging.
“Are you ready, Archie?”
“Me? When did I get involved in this?”
Archie sighed. “All right, but you start. I’ve had enough pain and suffering in my life; if anything’s going to go wrong I want it to happen to someone else first, for once. Won’t catch me being scraped off the deck.”
“Okay!” Horatio gaily grabbed a rope-end and mounted the rigging. He took a deep breath, then launched himself away from the rigging, clutching the rope like a lifeline.
“BAAAAAAAAANNNNZAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIII!!!!!” he shrieked. He slapped into the opposite rigging and swung back again, grasping the rigging again, face aglow. “Come on, Archie, it’s fun! Better than eating turnips—or even killing Frenchmen!”
Reluctantly, Archie took another rope and climbed the rigging opposite Horatio. A few moments later, the two were swinging back and forth like apes, screaming bloody murder and having the time of their lives. A few moments later, however, Matthews, Styles, and Oldroyd arrived on the scene.
When Matthews looked up and saw the two most promising junior officers on the Indy swinging from the yardarms like a couple of African chimpanzees, he nearly had heart failure. Styles instantly fell about the deck howling with laughter. Oldroyd, on the other hand, just looked confused.
“’Ey!” he exclaimed indignantly. “Since when ‘as it been Silly Day?! Nobody tells me nuffin’ ‘round ‘ere!”
Styles paused in his laughing long enough to bish his crewmate upside the head. “Ain’t Silly Day, you bloody eejit! It’s Mr. ‘Ornblower and Mr. Kennedy swinging from the yardarm!”
“’Ow, is tha’ all?” Oldroyd suddenly frowned. “What fer?”
Matthews simply shook his head and mumbled about his ropes. He turned to say something to Styles, but his mate had gone. “Styles?”
At that moment there was a bellow of “WAAAAAAAA!”, and Matthews staggered back in horror when he saw Styles go spinning past on a rope of his own. Oldroyd, still miffed, sat down on a rope coil and sulked. He was only there a few minutes, though, before Styles grabbed him on a passing swing and the two went sailing across the deck. The noise had by now brought most of the crew running, thinking that there was a battle going on and that they were missing out on all the fun, but while there was no battle their other suspicion was confirmed. Within ten minutes, the entirety of the space above the deck of the stately Indefatigable was filled with swinging, yodeling junior officers, sailors, and even marines, their red-and-white cockades bobbling frantically. It was a jungle. At least, until Captain Pellew came on deck after finishing his daily self-manicure.
“MR. HORNBLOWER!!” he hollered. “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ALL THIS RUMPUS, SAH?!?!”
Everyone was so startled that they didn’t watch where they were going and slammed into each other mid-swing. The entire crew fell to the deck in a tangle of flailing legs, arms, swords, and uniforms. There was a fierce struggle to get up for a few seconds as the men fought each other to get up, and Pellew stood breathing fire and glaring broadswords down at them all.
“Um – er—” Horatio was the first one up. “Cap—Captain Pellew, sir.” He hastily rolled off Archie and saluted. Archie groaned pitifully.
“WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY, SAH?!” Pellew demanded.
Archie weakly raised an arm from the deck, on the end of which was an accusatorily pointed button-pusher.
“It was his idea, Sir,” he croaked. “And now with all this adrenaline I’ll have fits for a week, I know I will.” He whimpered.
Horatio glared at Archie. “Wimp!” he hissed. He turned to the irate Pellew. “I—well—that is, I was bored, Sir.”
“BORED?!?” the captain thundered.
“Mr. Hornblower, you shock me! That such immaturity could come from a young man with your glowing future is beyond me! I’m sure Mr. Kennedy would never have thought of such an addlebrained idea. Bored, indeed!”
“I’ll not have monkeying of this sort on my ship! I was going to give you the command of the French vessel we’re going to catch tonight, but I think not, now, Sah! Clean up this mess—I’ll talk to you later!”
With that, he stalked back into his cabin to curl up in his beanbag chair and listen to calming whalesong.
As they started cleaning up and everything went back to its state of fragile normality, Archie looked smugly at Horatio.
“Told you it was a bad idea.”
“Shut up, you useless Jello.”