Archie's Journal (Duchess and the Devil)
by Michele

Part A

My soul is so fraught with despair and the desolation of abandonment
that I can scarce write the words, but I must, for I fear these words
shall be the only company I may have, for I do not know how long.
For I have indeed been abandoned, perhaps even betrayed, and left to
die alone, far from home, in the company of my enemy....

How many days have passed since I stood on deck of Indefatigable,
surrounded by shipmates, my closest friend at my side; at the one
moment aware of a strong yet nameless terror, and then all was
different, as if I had lost some time somehow. A mild fit, I fancy,
but I do not know, so quickly did things begin to happen thereafter.
I do recall climbing over sides and getting into the jollyboat with
Horatio and the men, but after that, no memory save the vast sea,
starvation, a thirst so terrible it pained me, and worse than all, an
overwhelming loneliness and the sense that I was lost forever, that
no one knew -- or cared -- where I was and no one would come looking
for me...

How many days was that? I have no manner in which to number the days
that unconsciousness held me in its merciful embrace. I only wish
for its sweet oblivion to again overtake me, and to hold me safe so
that I may be spared this numb and empty existence. For that is what
it is: A minute, an hour, a day, a night -- a night of endless
darkness -- then another day, which should be full of hope and
promise. Yet there is no hope, no new morning, no reason to bring
myself from my bed...

..and worse than all, there is no one to care.....

Archie's Journal, Part 1B

The first thing of which I do have recollection are the voices
shouting in French. At once I felt as if a great stone were in my
belly, such was the weight of my fear and the knowledge that I had no
chance to escape. Instinct forced me to attempt to row in the
direction opposite where I had heard the voices, but so dense was the
fog I did not know for certain which direction was clear and which
might take me to an enemy which might be waiting in silence. It
mattered little, as my body was too weak for hunger and thirst to
carry on rowing for any length of time. I recall wishing Horatio
there so that he might translate the ever-louder words of the Frogs.

I had, however, little time to muse and wish, for directly I was
taken in tow by a French vessel and made, by determined voices and
trained weapons, to come aboard. My body was scarcely able to climb
upward, but I had no choice. Once on deck of a ship whose named I
learned to be La Tenacite, the Captain introduced himself in English
as Captain Poulenc and declared me a prisoner. He was most polite
and as pleasant as he could be perceived, given the circumstances,
and he ordered that I be fed, given drink, and allowed to rest.

After being taken to the brig and being given a good blanket and a
most welcome meal (and, thankfully, being left a pitcher of water,
most precious to give to an enemy prisoner, I should say), I was left
to my own devices and fell blissfully to sleep. (I must say here
that the most dreadful sound I have ever heard was that of the door
being closed and locked after me, and even all of the horrors
inflicted upon me by Simpson could not have equalled the heaviness in
my soul at that moment....It was a sound, and a feeling, I fear I may
be to experience many times again...) Again I lost sense of time,
waking some time later to darkness all about, and shivering despite
the blanket. My throat felt painful and hoarse at its depths, and I
could feel a swelling further forward, the familiar warning that a
common malady was due, one I must suffer through for its course.
That, however, was the least of my problems.

So continued my life for several days, during which time I would
periodically inquire of the young guards as to my fate, but in vain,
for they understood no English and I no French. Finally one morning
the Captain had me brought to his cabin (which seemed to me then
richly appointed, flooded with light, and full of a warmth that set
my soul to longing for home) and invited me to sit. He then
explained to me in English that despite making many enquiries, he had
been having great difficulty in determining what to do with me. (I
could imagine at that moment Horatio boldly asking for release, since
no other arrangements were apparently forthcoming. I held no such
notion or hope.) After explaining that his orders were clear and his
timetable limited, the Captain at length informed me that he had been
able to persuade one Don Alfredo de Massaredo to take me, his
fortress being not well occupied at present and his current
responsibilities light. (Why, I wondered, was he taking so much time
to explain all of this to an enemy prisoner of low rank? He did
remind me a little of Captain Pellew; and he seemed to me
uncomfortable in dealing with prisoners. Perhaps a man of noble
birth, like myself, but a younger son, who had had little choice but
to go to sea....)

I recall wondering what this place would be like: The
word "fortress" felt rather foreboding. At once I imagined heavy
guard and thick, high walls. Worse, though, I thought in despair of
how far from England I would be, and how no one would ever find me
there...

Captain Poulenc must have read my thoughts (I fear my acting talents
had all but left me by this time), for he leaned forward and held my
gaze, and told me somewhat apologetically that Don Massaredo was an
aristocratic gentleman who had been, through some connection
somewhere, appointed over the fortress and that he was not noted for
being a professional jailer; and that, if obeyed, he would treat his
prisoners reasonably. I remained silent; this did not hold with the
tales I had heard of treatment of prisoners by England's enemies, but
again, I had no say, so my thoughts did not matter....

*************

The following day I found myself in a ship's boat, being rowed
through clear green waters which might have been lovely if not for
the threatening walls rising steeply above me alongside the boat. On
we went until arriving ashore, and without ceremony I was led through
covered walkways and old gates to what was to eventually become my
new home....

*********

So here I now lie, furnished with a narrow bed (there are two others
here, stacked one above the other; I do not wish to trouble myself to
climb, nor do I wish further confinement by sleeping on the lower
bed, the higher above me), a blanket, a chipped pitcher and bowl and
tiny cake of soap, and another bowl placed upon the floor in the
corner. Perhaps Captain Poulenc had been right about Don Massaredo,
for I also found paper and pencil, and a copy of La Santa Biblia; I
fancy my Spanish will much improve for reading it...

 

[To Be Continued..]