An American Encounter
by Skihee

Chapter 16 The Admiral

The following days were boring in the monotony of the ship's routine. Queen Charlotte sailed nor' nor'east about three days ago, leaving Foudroyant alone until the sloop Princess caught up with her. A day previous, a packet had met up with them on a starboard tack, headed west. It was learned from this vessel that Palermo was peaceful. No sign of the combined navies, though the Kingdom of Naples was in chaos. It was an opportunity to send off his letter to Pamela and he took it.

It was about three this afternoon that the western slopes of Sicily were spotted.

"Land ho!"

All eyes turned to the pointing mast head look out. Far in the distance, the gray shape could be seen. By the first watch, Foudroyant was moored in the coves of Palermo, not far from Vanguard.

Captain Brown left the ship to parlay with Captain Hardy. The disposition of the crew aboard Foudroyant would be decided, as well as when Vanguard would be removed.

Kennedy and Hornblower and the men of the Indy stood on the forecastle surveying the anchorage. Matthews recognized a ship he served on when first joining the navy twenty-four years previous. The twinkle in his eyes conveyed a fond memory of his early days in His Majesty's service.

Indefatigable was not here, though none of them truly thought she would be. That was the foremost question in the mind of all: what was to become of them? Hornblower promised he would inquire at the earliest convenience.

Still assigned the middle watch, Hornblower was sleeping when the transfers began. Kennedy was up, however, and after a quick and early breakfast, he was given a list of berth locations for the dunnage and supplies coming on board.

The pounding of feet, the loading of net upon net of crates, barrels, boxes, every manner of container conceivable in the navy, was coming over the side. The hatches to the lower decks were open all the way to the orlop. Men located on each deck level in the fore and aft hatches called to one another for heads up as the nets were lowered for unpacking. The lighters between Vanguard and Foudroyant were alternated with alacrity.

"Careful with this now! Careful with this!" the boson from Vanguard had been given personal charge of the dark item coming up the side. "Fend her off there, boys! Don't let her hit!" The man hurried up the side from the lighter. "Here, here! Lower easy! Easy!"

Archie stared at the oddity. He flipped through his papers. What this appeared to be did not list on his sheets. He stepped over to the anxious boson, but waited till the item were safely landed.

"Excuse me. I am Leftenant Kennedy. Could you show me where this is on my list, sir?"

"Hm?" The preoccupied man stared at the unrecognized officer but gave him a quick salute. "Yes, sir, sorry, sir." Taking the list from him, he ran his smudged finger down the columns. "Here. Here it is. It goes in the Admiral's office."

Archie stared at the items name and raised an eyebrow. He looked back at the long case.

"What is your name, boson?"

"Sorry, sir. Hanraddy. Boson Hanraddy, sir." He saluted again.

"This says 'trophy'."

"Aye, sir."

Archie was puzzled. He walked over and stared at the elongated box.

"You mean there is a trophy inside the case?"

Hanraddy's face broke into a wide grin. "You're new here, ain't che, sir?"

"I arrived with Foudroyant yesterday." Since this was something belonging to Nelson, Kennedy did not wish in anyway to do something improper to his belongings. It was the appearance of the case that was alarming. He would overlook the condescension of the man until he understood the lay.

"This here is a gift from Captain Hallowell."

"A gift?"

"Aye, sir."

"Forgive me, boson, but it looks like a coffin."

"Aye, sir, it do because it is." The man chuckled. "But it's made o'something near and dear to ol' Nels heart." The man straightened himself realizing the familiarity he had fallen into. "Beg pardon, sir. Admiral Nelson is right proud o' this. It was made from the main mast of L'Orient. Captain Hallowell had it made fer him, sir. He sent him a note with it telling him one of his trophies would never be far from him when his time came."

 

Archie swallowed hoping he did not appear as appalled as he felt. It was gruesome even if it would become necessary at some point in the future. WHERE did he say he was going to put it?

"Boson,...it goes....in his office?"

"Aye, sir."

Another man came up over the side, not an officer, but a man dressed as a servant.

"Hanraddy! Drop it down another level. His office is on the next deck."

Kennedy stared at the new arrival. The man looked at him, approached and saluted.

"You the officer in charge, sir?"
"Yes. Leftenant Kennedy."

"I'm Tom Barwell, the admiral's servant. The things coming up next are his personal items, sir. I'd like them handled with extra care."

"Of course."

The man looked over Kennedy's shoulder at his list. He pointed.

"Here. This one, this one, this one. Flip it over, sir." Kennedy turned the page and watched as Barwell ran his finger down the column. "This one, this one. Flip." The man sighed. "Here, here, here. I think that's all of 'em, sir. Till his stores get here anyway. Hanraddy, be careful with this stuff! I'm going down to supervise."

"Aye, aye, Tom."

Kennedy ticked off the individual items as each was lowered to the deck below them. Barwell had a small army of hand picked men that arrived to care for Nelson's personal belongings, that he oversaw meticulously.

Several officers arrived, consulting Kennedy for berthing instructions. He directed them to Midshipman Stanley on the third deck. And so the morning went.

At the forenoon watch, Hornblower appeared beside Kennedy, hiding his nervousness at the arrival of the seasoned fighting force with varying success. These men had fought at the Battle of the Nile, had served Nelson for years!

"Good morning, Mr. Kennedy."

"Good morning, Mr. Hornblower."

"Are we feeling a bit out of our element?"

"Indeed we are. Our big empty ship is getting fuller and smaller by the moment."

"Any sign of...."

"No. No, but I believe his servant is preparing his lunch as we speak."

Hornblower swallowed. "Dear God." He felt a sweat break on his forehead.

"Calm down, Horatio. Just because he is the premier hero of Great Britain is no reason to..." Kennedy felt his throat constrict. "Well, ...maybe it is. Stop that jittering! Don't make me any more nervous than I already am."

"Oh. By the way, your things have been moved in with mine. Stanley was not sure of the officers coming from Vanguard. If your berth isn't needed, you will get it back."

"Not you again!" teased Kennedy.

Horatio's grim furrow lightened with a quick grin. "That knife cuts both ways." He lifted his right leg sideways to discreetly kick Kennedy in the butt.

"Watch it!" warned Kennedy, fighting a grin.

That little playful act accented the excitement the two were feeling, not to mention the Indy men who wheedled their way into top deck assignments with a hope of seeing the renowned admiral. Kennedy was watching them and pointed them out to Hornblower.

"I can't blame them, Archie."

"Nor do I, but they had better behave. Hardy concerns me the most. At every opportunity he has climbed the rigging, acting like a monkey, and peering over at Vanguard."

"I'll keep an eye on him."

Hornblower needed no reason to pace from the aft to the fore hatch other than his own nervous energy. The movement was supposed to calm him, but he found he was tapping his thigh incessantly. He tried keeping both hands held fast behind him, but realized he was restricting the blood flow of one when he released it and it began to pin-prick and tingle.

A man working in the forward hatch two decks below was stymied with a net load caught on the deck above him. Hornblower shouted for assistance but no one appeared. He went down himself to free the cargo, pushing it and nearly losing his balance. It was noisy down here. A lot of banging and hammering. He looked up through the hatch and saw Hardy was in the rigging again.

"Hardy!" called Hornblower. Either the man could not hear him or he paid him no mind. The rating on the third deck called a thanks to Hornblower. Another man approached him with a question.

Captain Brown appeared on deck along with leftenants Craig, Dodd and Larkins. He motioned Kennedy to take a place beside Larkins. The midshipmen, not immediately employed elsewhere, were turned out as well behind these. He was coming. Kennedy sought Hornblower forward, but he was no where to be seen.

"Where are you, Horatio?" he muttered under his breath.

The chorus of pipes started. The Admiral's cockade appeared shining and glinting in the sun. Kennedy had never seen such an adornment on an officer's hat. The man underneath seemed small and frail, his face, care worn and tired, but his topcoat glistened with medals and orders. Kennedy saw the empty sleeve and marveled he had climbed the side one handed.

The officer arriving behind created a study in contrast. His uniform that of a captain, he stood nealy a foot taller than the admiral and seemed a sturdy sort. His pudgy face was calm and reserved.

It was at that moment that Kennedy wished he could have melted into the deck.

"Hardy! Get down from there, damn it!" yelled Hornblower, emerging from the forward companion.

The entire entourage silenced as the pipes trailed off. They looked to Hornblower who was motioning to the rating in the rigging and realizing the happenings aft all in a moment. His face felt afire. Nelson, too, turned to Hornblower at the moment of his call.

Captain Hardy was frozen where he stood at the entry portal.

The pipers looked at each other and wondered if they should take another breath and begin again.

Nelson swung round to see his Captain flumoxed at the command, and the admiral began to laugh.
"Come on, Hardy, I do not think he means you." Nelson, turned back to Brown and greeted him. "Captain, I always feel like an intruder when we do this flip flop. The Vanguard has been a good ship, but she needs a rest."

"It is why I am here, Admiral. Think nothing of it. My quarters were easily vacated. And, yours have been waiting for you for months, sir."

"Indeed, indeed. Has Barwell stood my trophy?"

"I believe so, Admiral."

"Good, good. Thank you, men." He nodded at Brown's leftenant's and midshipmen, then made his way to his cabins on the next deck.

Captain Hardy saluted. "You've got a vocal leftenant there, Brown."

"It was an unfortunate incident, Captain. He does have a rating named Hardy, I must say in his defense. Speaking of Mr. Hornblower, Captain, I thought I would leave him with you for the moment."

"Yes? Why?"

"He and Leftenant Kennedy here are on loan to me from Sir Edward Pellew of Indefatigable. We had an unfortunate mishap and I needed officers for the watch. Pellew was supposed to follow us here, but Admiral Keith sent him off on another assignment. I am not sure what to do with them." Brown walked next to Hardy continuing to explain the situation.

Craig, Dodd, and Larkins commiserated apologetically with Kennedy.

"I bet you wish you were coming with us now," stated Craig.

Hornblower sheepishly joined them.

"You've put your foot in it, Hornblower," said Larkins.

Dodd clamped Hornblower's shoulder. "Don't worry, Horatio, Nelson laughed it off. I'm sure it cannot be the first time it has happened."

Hornblower could think of nothing to say. *Another brilliant day in my naval career,* he thought sarcastically.

Archie sympathetically shook his head.

"We're going to lunch. You two coming?" asked Craig.

"In a minute, Craig," answered Kennedy.

The two were alone at the side. Horatio hung his head and glanced at Archie.

"I'd like to climb into the nearest hole, Archie."

Kennedy sighed. "Crawling under a barrel occurred to me. Brown has pointed us out to Hardy as well, since he doesn't know what to do with us."

Hornblower rolled his eyes heavenward and closed them. "Oh God!" He could not stand up right on his own anymore. He rested his forearms on the railing and hung his head.

Archie lay his arm across Hornblower's shoulders. "Don't take it so hard, old man. Maybe an opportunity will arise to put us in his good graces."

Horatio eyed him sideways, "The eternal optimist."

Archie turned to lean against the rail. "I'm hungry, Horatio. Let's get a bite of lunch, eh? Did you have breakfast?"

"No, and I don't feel the least bit hungry."

Archie grabbed his forearm. "You're going to eat. That's an order. You're not getting me in trouble with Sebastian."

"Sebastian is not here."

"He is where YOU are concerned. Come on. Captain Hardy won't be in the officer's mess."

By the time the two entered the wardroom, the combined leftenants of Vanguard and Foudroyant were seated. The moment Hornblower appeared behind Archie, the leftenants all applauded and gave various shouts of approval, then fell to laughing.

"Don't worry, old man, Hardy won't have YOU in the rigging." The leftenant stood and offered his hand to Kennedy and Hornblower. "Andrew Thompson, First Leftenant."

"Archie Kennedy."

Horatio, with crimson countenance, took the proffered hand. "Hornblower's my name."

Larkins was chuckling. "Tell him the rest, Hornblower."

"Horatio Hornblower."

Thompson's puzzled expression lit with understanding and he laughed again. "That should endear you to Nels! These are leftenants Neil Campbell, George Vassal, Keith Ayde, Philip Rathbone, James Spicer, and acting leftenant Tom Weatherston.

Room was made for the two and plates brought to them by the servants.

"I understand you two are from Pellew's ship, Indefatigable," stated Spicer.

"Yes," answered Kennedy.

"It is said he does well getting prizes."

"He does," grinned Kennedy.

"Will the enitre crew from Vanguard be shifting to Foudroyant?" asked Hornblower of Thompson.

"No, sir. Only what is needed to compliment Foudroyant's existing crew. Which I KNOW shall endear us further to the accountants back in London. In fact, I've just informed Dodd here, he will be staying with us." He grinned at the men, then popped a bite into his mouth.

Kennedy nudged Hornblower's side. When Horatio looked at him, Archie eyed his plate to encourage him to eat. Hornblower picked up his utensils to placate his friend.

"You two seem to be without a home yourselves," said Rathbone.

"Yes, what is to become of you?" asked Campbell.

"We do not know yet," answered Kennedy, "though I believe Captain Brown is requesting we stay with Foudroyant."

"Well, that makes sense. At least, Pellew will know where to find you. Or, they may send you to him," suggested Vassal.

"If we only knew where HE is," added Hornblower.

"He's with Admiral Keith!" said Thompson.

The table broke into laughter again. Kennedy and Hornblower exchanged a look.

"Ah, I see something is known by these Indefatigables," said Thompson with a raised brow. "Come on. What's the Atlantic scuttlebutt."

"I don't know what you mean," said Hornblower innocently.

Thompson gauged that Hornblower was not a complete idiot, even if he did commit the earlier faux pas. "Come now. We are all gentlemen here, and we are not ignorant of what goes on above us." Thompson looked up at the ceiling. "Nelson has his own ideas....and they do not always coincide with the fleet commanding officer."

Hornblower breathed deeply and glanced at Kennedy who quickly put a forkful of food in his mouth. Obviously, what was to be said was going to be left to him.

"I do not presume to judge, Leftenant Thompson."

Thompson smiled. "I am not asking your judgment, sir."

All eyes were on Hornblower.

He considered as he took a deep breath. "The situation in the Two Sicilies is precarious by all accounts. Is this true?"

"It is, indeed. The French have taken Naples with the help of the so-called Patriots of the Parthenopean Republic, but a royalist force is fighting them under Cardinal Ruffo."

Hornblower nodded thoughtfully. "So the Two Sicilies are in danger of the French, ...on their soil as a matter of fact. Minorca while a necessary outpost for us, is but a small island, and in British hands. The oh, twenty odd French ship of the line, in the Mediterranean with another twenty Spanish..."

"What?"

"No!"

A clattering of metal utensils dropping on china ensued.

"When did this happen?"

"Is it certain, Hornblower? Are the navies combined?"

"In all truth, sir, it is not known, but it is possible," answered Hornblower

The table fell silent.

"No wonder Keith is angry."

"But isn't it equally important to maintain our ground here? Boney's already got Malta. If he had Sicily, too, what could prevent them a free passage between France and Egypt and ultimately a passage to India?"

"But we're blockading Malta."

"And we and Cardinal Ruffo are all that keeps the Two Sicilies."

"But if over forty ship of the line with accompanying ships attack...."

"Well, that's why the admiralty has reinforced the Atlantic fleet with channel ships and sent Keith into the Med."

The leftenants continued to talk amongst themselves.

When the conversation finally died down, Thompson looked once more at Hornblower and smiled wryly.

"The decisions of command. It is times such as these that I am glad I am NOT the man to make them."

Kennedy remembered the tired and worn out look of Nelson. "It must weigh heavy, indeed."

"The only avenue I see, Mr. Thompson, is to support whoever is immediately commanding... whole-heartedly," stated Hornblower.

Thompson felt himself warming to the fallible young leftenant. He grinned. "Yes, Mr. Hornblower. You are exactly right." He extended his hand to him once again. "It is good to have you aboard, sir. For whatever the length of time."

Hornblower shook his hand and nodded. "Thank you, sir."

*****

The coming days were busy with settling in, reassigning gun crews, defining the two watches, all those things that made for a smooth running ship.

But the two Indefatigable leftenants were near redundancy. With the officers of Foudroyant in place, there was little left for them to do.

Nelson was not seen, though he was sometimes heard. His cabins being above the wardroom, his pacing was audible, steady, and long. He remained busy with the "writing" load he bore in keeping lines of communication open between himself and his captains, the admiralty, Lord Keith, Lord St. Vincent, the Duke of Clarence, his personal friends, and his family. He wrote for hours on end, only resting when he was dictating to his secretary who would then leave to make copies for those with whom the missive was shared.

It seemed a tiresome way to run a war to Hornblower and Kennedy. It was another view of the demands of command and about as exciting as watching paint dry.

One afternoon, while the two were sitting together in the wardroom writing letters to family members, Nelson had begun his pacing. They shared a glance at one another and went back to writing, but soon both were sitting staring at the ceiling and at each other. They could hear his voice but could not make out the words.

Horatio was tapping his lips with the end of his quill.

"What are you thinking, Horatio?"

"He does this every day, Archie."

"Yes. Your point?"

Hornblower sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "I merely observe. I never thought about the amount of 'communication' the admiral of a fleet might have. But, bloody hell! We aren't DOING ANYTHING. What can he possibly have to write about?"

Rathbone and Vassal entered the wardroom.

"Ah. The leisure leftenants!" grinned Vassal.

"Have you two taken to writing as much as the admiral?"

"Hardly, Rathbone," answered Hornblower.

Archie sat gazing at the ceiling. He stood, watched, and listened. Taking a butter knife from the table, he lay it on the floor.

Hornblower watched his activity with mild interest. This was something different. Resting his elbow on the table, he held his chin in his hand and sighed with boredom.

Archie waited until he heard the admiral walking. He followed his footsteps, and when he paused to turn, he placed a spoon on the floor.

"Archie..."

"Sh."

The three leftenants watched Kennedy in his odd duet with their commanding officer, matching his steps to what he heard.

Rathbone chuckled. "I think he's gone mad, Hornblower. What the devil are you doing, Kennedy?"

"A wager, gentlemen. How many miles do you think the admiral walks in a day?"

"I was right. He's raving!"

"A simple mathematical exercise, Rathbone," said Hornblower, standing and checking the pace space himself.

"Where is the spare timer, Horatio?" Archie went to the cabinet and found the small minute timing device.

"Wait, Archie. Wait till he turns."

Both of them stared at the ceiling. "Get ready... Go!"

Archie quickly turned the timer to begin afresh.

The two young men stood staring at the ceiling, mentally counting the steps, while the sand ran from one side of the glass to the other.

Vassal clicked his tongue against his teeth. "Rathbone.... I think we shall have to add another adjective to our leisure leftenants. They are now the 'loony' leisure leftenants."

"No, Vassal, this is quite interesting. What would you guess? How many miles DOES Nels walk a day?"

"Not you, too?"

"Come on, Vassal, make a guess."

"You're as mad as they!"

Rathbone grabbed a sheet of paper from under Archie's letter and took a quill to hand.

"Time!" called Archie. "How many steps did you count?"

"Seventy-six," answered Hornblower.

"Hm. I counted sixty-eight, but Vassal and Rathbone distracted me."

"Sorry, Kennedy," offered Rathbone.

"Do it again?" asked Hornblower.

"Aye. Are you with us Rathbone?"

"Indeed!"

"You're ALL BALMY!" exclaimed Vassal. "I leave you to your insanity!"

The three began the task again, spending the better part of the afternoon in the mathematical pursuit.

Beeman arrived in the wardroom some time later and found the three leftenants bent over the table in mild argument with sheet upon sheet of paper scribbled with algebraic equations, numbers added, divided, multiplied and subtracted.

"Excuse me, sirs. I just wanted to let you know your clean clothes are in your cabins and to ask if you'd like a bath."

Hornblower perked up from his figures. "A bath?"

"Aye, sir. We've still old water remaining in the casks even after all the laundry's been done. The captain says to ask if anyone wants a bath with it or it's to be thrown out tomorrow."

Nelson insisted on fresh everything as long as his ship were in port. The water in the casks had been refreshed in Gibraltar and was barely two weeks old, but under his standing orders for ships at anchor, the water was to be replenished from land side on a weekly basis. Not only did it keep the crew in fresh fresh water, it also was a means of keeping the idle crew occupied. Even the ratings were encouraged to bathe at least once a week.

"I'll take one."

"Aye!"

"Me, as well."

"Very well, sirs. I will let you know as soon as it is prepared." Beeman left.

"Nothing like a fresh water bath." grinned Rathbone.

"Indeed," said Hornblower with a sigh.

Archie looked at him wryly. Though Hornblower was taking a dip in the sea occasionally, he knew the last proper bath Hornblower had was probably at his Gibraltar home. He could almost see the memories the idea evoked arising in the mind of his friend.

"The loony leisure leftenants lounged lazily in the larboard...lazaret. HA!" grinned Archie.

Hornblower stared and thought about a come-back for these idiotic alliterations Archie had taken to spouting off at the oddest occasions.

Rathbone was the first to realize he was standing in the doorway. He came to attention.

"Captain Hardy, sir!" he said loudly for Hornblower and Kennedy.

The two stood smartly.

Hardy stepped further into the room, eyed the leftenants, and the table covered with paper.

"You're Pellew's men."

"Yes, sir," answered Hornblower.

"What is this?" He held one of the sheets containing the computations and contemplated the numbers.

Kennedy shifted nervously and stole a quick glance at Horatio.

"It ...is a math problem, sir," said Horatio.

Hardy stared at Hornblower. "You're the one on deck that day."

If Hornblower could have turned a spigot at his heart it would not have been soon enough to stop the burning blood flow he felt enter his cheeks, he swallowed. "Y...yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

Hardy lingered in his stare, then looked at the held paper. "What kind of problem?" He looked over the table and began to pick up sheet after sheet of equations.

"Distance time ratio, sir."

"Did you find the answer?"

"We are not sure of the time factor, sir."

"It looks as though you have been doing some writing, Mr......"

"Hornblower, sir. Yes, sir, to my wife."

"And, you as well, Mr....."

"Kennedy, sir."

"You have a good hand, Hornblower, but Mr. Kennedy, your scrawl leaves something to be desired. Well, we shall take what we can get. Mr. Hornblower, come with me."

Horatio worriedly glanced at Archie and took his topcoat from the back of his chair. Slipping it on quickly, he followed Hardy.

Horatio found himself walking the narrow hall that led to Nelson's day cabin. Hardy tapped on the open door as they entered.

Nelson was sitting at the head of a long table, resting his elbow on the top, and massaging his forehead. He looked very weary. Was the man ever rested? His white shock of hair was tousled and partially covered a scar where his fingers pressed. He opened his eyes briefly. "Hardy."

"Lord Nelson, Hornblower here has a passable hand. Let him write for you a while."

"Hardy, Hardy. You've been talking to Burdock."

"What if I have? We both know you are driving yourself too hard, not to mention poor Burdock."

"Is he complaining?"

"You know he never would, sir, but I would be a poor officer not to know what goes on in my ship."

That brought a half smile to Nelson's lips who continued to massage his head with his eyes closed. "Who is this you've brought? Is he a scribe?"

"He writes well enough, though he is one of Pellew's leftenants. Are you serving duty, Hornblower?"

"No, sir."

"There! You see! The man is looking for something to do. He may as well scribble for you for a while."

"Captain Hardy disapproves of my communications."

"It is not your communications, Lord Nelson, that I disapprove. It is that you should be resting, sir, and you know it as well. The physician has told you himself."

"I know, Hardy, I am not well, but if I allowed myself the luxury of laying about I would be in a lather for want of doing that which I know must be done. I am the only one to do it, and it must be done."

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Calm down, I beg you. I am not trying to stop you, but to give you aid. You can take dictation, can't you, Hornblower?"

"Aye, sir. I would be happy to." He felt sorry for the little admiral. He did indeed look sickly. It was the first time Hornblower had seen him up close. He stared at the box standing behind Nelson. The coffin. The entire scene seemed grotesque and depressing, the atmosphere oppressive.

"Sit down, Hornblower." Hardy pulled out one of the dining table chairs. He slid the pile of paper in front of Nelson over to Hornblower. "There. He's ready."

Nelson briefly opened his eyes again. "Yes, Hardy, yes. Leave me."

Hornblower looked up at the captain, a query in his expression as to whether he should leave as well. Hardy shook his head, no, pressing down on his shoulders.

Hardy closed the door after him.

Nelson continued to massage his forehead. "Still here, are you Hornblower?"

"Yes, sir."

"I've a ruddy splitting headache."

"Are you taking something for it, sir?" *God, if Sebastian could hear me now, what a ribbing I would take. I do NOT want to be a doctor!* he thought.

"No tonic works for this pain."

Hornblower hesitated to say more, but the man looked desperately uncomfortable. "Perhaps you have not taken it regularly, sir, to allow the medicines to build in your system. Like when you find yourself fighting a shore battery. If you only fire your cannon now and then, they come back at you, but if you lay down a constant barrage, defeat is possible."

Nelson stopped massaging his head, grinned, and chuckled. "Very good, Mr. Hornblower, very good. Are you an apothecary?"

"No, sir. My father is a physician. He prescribed a tonic for headache for a close friend of mine. Would you like me to see if he has any of it with him?"

"Who? Your friend?"

"Yes, sir."

"Barwell! Is it the other leftenant?"

"Yes, sir, Leftenant Kennedy."

"Barwell. Get Leftenant Kennedy for me."

The servant was so quiet in his entry he startled Hornblower.

"Yes, Admiral." He left as quietly as he came.

Nelson looked miserable. Hornblower hesitated. "Sir, might I.....might I try something else while we are waiting?"

"What's that?"

"Well..." Hornblower rose and positioned himself behind Nelson's chair. "I had a head injury recently, sir, and I found massage helped. May I, sir?"

"As you wish."

Horatio lay his hands on Nelson's shoulders and began a deep massage of the muscles in his shoulders, working his way into the neck. He recalled what Pamela had done for him and mimicked her movements the best he could.

Barwell entered the cabin with Archie in tow.

Kennedy's face was puzzled and astonished.

"Archie, have you any of the herbs my father prescribed for your headaches?"

"Yes. A little."

"Get Barwell there to help you and prepare the Admiral some tea."

"All right, Horatio."

"Horatio?" asked Nelson.

"Yes, sir. It's my first name."

Nelson smiled to himself.

"Is this helping at all, sir?"

"It feels very good, but my head is still splitting."

"Should I stop, sir?"

"No. Continue."

Barwell and Kennedy returned after quite some time. The servant placed the tray on the table. Kennedy poured the tea into a cup, then added a bit of sugar to it. Hornblower slowed his massage and rubbed across the shoulders.

"You've a soothing touch, Mr. Hornblower." Nelson surveyed the tea for one. "Barwell, get a pot of tea for these young men."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Sit down, sit down. You will make my neck ache again. You, too, Mr. Kennedy." Nelson pulled the cup of tea closer and stared into it.

"You might want to let it cool a bit more, sir."

He leaned his head back against the chair, eyes closed. Hornblower and Kennedy exchanged glances and stared at the resting man and the monstrosity behind him.

"How do you like it?"

"Sir?"

"My trophy."

"It's ........fascinating, sir."

Nelson opened his eyes, looked at Kennedy, and closed them again. "Hallowell." He smiled mildly.

Kennedy and Hornblower exchanged looks again. Barwell arrived.

"I've brought the tea, sir. Will they be staying for dinner?"

"Hm? Yes, yes." His answer was faint and far away.

Hornblower looked with concern at Barwell and shook his head no.

Barwell motioned with his hand for them to stay and began to pour the tea, placing a cup before each. He disappeared quietly once again, but soon returned. He went to his Admiral's side and whispered softly.

"A letter, sir."

Nelson took it from his hand, recognizing the writing. Hornblower and Kennedy watched as pleasure and sadness crossed the weary face. He lay the letter down and picked up his tea. "Your tea is sweet and pleasant, Mr. Kennedy. You find it helps headache?"

"Yes, sir. It has been my salvation."

"You should drink all of this pot, sir, and then take it regularly, four times a day for the next several weeks. I believe you will see a change in how you feel quite soon. It should help you rest as well," added Hornblower.

"Apothecaries and leftenants, potions and shore batteries." He chuckled lightly once more. "Pellew must have the right idea." He smiled and sipped the tea.

"Admiral Nelson. You are tired, sir. Should we not leave so you may rest?" asked Hornblower, softly.

"Would you bring that candle closer, Mr. Hornblower?"

He did as asked realizing his own question was to go unanswered.

"Break that for me, Kennedy." He passed the letter to Archie.

Archie glanced at Horatio for confirmation that he should be doing this sort of thing. Opening the admiral's mail? He was not accustomed to such familiarity with a commanding officer, especially of this rank. He understood Nelson would need help, feeling poorly as he was, and one-handed. He swallowed, broke the seal, unfolded the page, and handed it back to him.

Nelson held the letter near the light, squinted at the words, laid it down, rubbed his eye, lifted it to read. He sighed, folded, and tucked the letter within his topcoat.

The three of them drank the tea in silence.

"I would like for you to write now, Mr. Hornblower."

Kennedy pushed the writing supplies over to Horatio.

"Ready, sir."

Fifteen June 1799, HMS Foudroyant, Palermo

Dear Captain Troubridge,

I am delighted that you have returned to my preferred station for Culloden and I appreciate your loyalty and concern for my command. No sign of the French or Spanish fleet, alone or combined, has been seen in these waters, as you have been able to ascertain with your own eyes. Where those ships are remains a secret, but I have hopes of hearing from our men in France and Spain soon. All the same, the news of your last letter is welcome. Your loyalty and that of Captain Ball, I never doubted. It pleases me that he has returned to the blockade of Malta. The two of you know me well.

I hope your insistence to return here did not cause further friction with Lord Keith. Let me bear the brunt of his displeasure.

Things continue to heat up in Naples and I foresee a necessity to return to that unhappy place in the near future. I will keep you informed as I remain, your

 

"Pass it here, Hornblower, and I will sign." He signed his name largely and shoved it back. "Fold it and seal it. Barwell!"

The servant appeared quickly. "Sir?"

"Get the extra seal and wax for Mr. Hornblower."

Kennedy passed Nelson another cup of tea, freshened Horatio's cup, and tried to catch a glimpse of Hornblower's eyes to share concern for the information they were now privy. Troubridge was in Sicilian waters. Ball at Malta. Where was Indefatigable? Still with Keith? What had happened at Minorca? Nothing it would seem from what was revealed in the letter to Troubridge. How much could he and Horatio discuss with Nelson? Would he discuss it? He had ignored Horatio's suggestion to rest, though that seemed to be the way with officers burdened with command. He pinched his lips together knowing full well it was not his place to comment. He was not even sure why he still remained except that no one had told him to leave and it seemed that he might be expected to dine with Nelson. Dine with Nelson? *Oh my God!* The import of the thought struck him suddenly.