Archie's Journal (Duchess and the Devil)
A few precious moments of sleep seem to have lately claimed
though I had not realised that blessed state was at last coming upon
me. I was just dreaming I was riding a swift horse, flying over the
hills of Father's lands, the morning mists creating a scene that
called to mind the days of Arthur. Pervading all was a sense of
overwhelming freedom, the sky large and the land green and welcoming.
Just as my lungs were filling with the clean air of home..I
..and I am here... alone....
I wish I knew what was the date. The days have varied little
was taken, the most notable difference being my transfer here from La
Tenacite. I only know that it is a day later than last time I wrote...
What strikes me most, even more so than fear (for I have thus
been treated civilly), and even boredom (though I AM dreadfully
bored) is my unrelenting loneliness. Seemingly over-night, I found
myself going from a ship teeming with the activity of hundreds, they
and myself going about our ordered duties; always many with whom to
take meals, always someone with whom to converse, share thoughts, or
make a dark and sleepless night seem shorter.. Last night I was
loathe to sleep: Respite in slumber simply would not come, such was
the weight of my situation upon my soul. I could not keep myself from
weeping, a condition which caused even more discomfort from the cold
I caught whilst adrift. The heaviness in my heart is immeasurable;
the impact of my situation has come upon me, and with it the
realisation that I will not leave here, or see home again, until the
war is over....
...unless I... unless I take matters upon myself...
I did finally sleep last night, certainly more from exhaustion than
from my ease. It was, in fact, the first time I HAVE slept through a
night since coming here. It was a strange and discomforting sound
which awakened me this morning, or rather a series of sounds: The
rattling of keys, the clanging of metal doors, ordered footsteps many
in number, voices calling out in a foreign tongue, too distant for me
to discern their words... Again I became painfully aware of my
circumstances, how far I am from my ship, from home, and from all I
know; and again my loneliness overtook me, and I did not wish to rise
from my bed.
In time the guards came and brought food and drink, or so that
what it purported to be. Never a man given to the considerable
consumption of spirits, I would nonetheless welcome some small
offering of grog, for the water here is scarcely tolerable (though
somewhat better than that aboard Indefatigable; one does, however,
hope for more ashore). I have not yet had success in the
identification of the semi-liquid regularly served, by way of a meal;
it appears to have its base in some sort of bean, and I must wonder,
would it be any more palatable if served hot...
I have yet to leave this cell, and I begin to wonder if I ever
I fear my legs may waste from disuse, and at the same time I find
myself beginning to cease caring, for of what use will they be if I
must spend unfathomed months or years in this place? Last night I
began to have thoughts of -- I dare not write it.... But I have no
conception of how such thoughts might be executed, for the door is
heavy as is the guard. And I... I fear I am presently too weak to
entertain such hopes...
How sweet was the air today, and how vast and blue the sky!
It was as
though I saw it for the first time, and yet for the last as well...
At last I was allowed to take the sun for a time, today: Only,
course, within the walls of a courtyard I can see from my window;
nonetheless, my stifled lungs were blessed with clean air and my soul
with the life-giving warmth I have so missed. That time was indeed a
blessing, but it made returning to this cell all the more painful and
distressing, even demoralising.
It was during that time, however, that I had finally occasion
the acquaintance of my captor, one Don Alfredo de Massaredo, the very
same who had been described by Captain Poulenc of La Tenacite. He and
his guard (which I took to be excessive: eight men to guard one, and
one in my present state, even so) stopped before me, where I sat; and
I was obliged to stand (which I found difficult, and for which
difficulty I received a perceptible degree of sympathy from my
captor) and introduce myself (although he did know who I am). As I
stood, I felt myself to be trembling, partly from fear and partly
from weakness, but I did manage to bow my head in acknowledgment and
respect, as did he (which surprised me, though it should not have
done, he being of noble birth, as myself). He spoke a few words, in
'Please accept my apologies for not seeing you sooner, Senor...
Kennedy, is it?'
'Yes, sir,' had been my quiet reply.
'Senor Kennedy... Urgent business in la ciudad has kept me
attending to business here, but I have been wanting to meet you.' As
he spoke, his eyes showed warmth, and yet there was something else in
them, a hardness, or a determination, or something unidentifiable; in
any case, something which I did not trust and which caused an ill
feeling in my stomach that was beyond my hunger and the constant dull
fear which had settled in (and which I have accepted will be with me
for ever). I fought to remain standing, and to look him in the eye,
as he continued:
'Capitan Poulenc has told me of you, Senor -- that you gave
trouble, and that you have been adrift for some time. I will
therefore, on his words, accord you the respect owed a gentleman.'
'Thank you, sir,' said I.
'However,' -- and his eyes turned to steel and his features
this was accomplished within the space of no more than a second, I
have no notion, nor do I wish to fathom, but it disquieted me beyond
my ability to describe here -- 'I caution you, do not cross me,
That was all. No more said on that subject. I stood frozen,
too dry at first to respond, but that steeliness forced me to
whisper, 'No, sir'; and just as suddenly the steeliness left his gaze
and his former countenance returned.
'Very well then, Senor Kennedy. I trust you will enjoy our
sun, if your English skin will tolerate it' -- there was actually
mirth in his eyes now! -- 'and we will speak again. For now I will
take my leave...'
And with those words (and a brief bow) he and his entourage
I could hear the silence after his last words echoing the
thought 'but you shall not.' I do not know which of us was thinking
it more loudly...
That ponderance aside for the moment, such brief outing has
me (more than it should have done, but such has been the extent of my
inactivity and lack of intellectual stimulation) and set a dull panic
into my soul that can spur me to one of two courses, each bearing its
own terrors: Those being to resign myself to captivity and risk the
Don's apparent caprice and the withering of my soul; or to attempt to
escape, yet still subject to the Don's whim, should I fail, and the
threat of physical harm, or worse.
The only escape I can know for certain sure is that to be had
sleep. Once in its merciful arms, I have a chance of being aboard my
ship, in my father's lands, in London attending a tragedie of
Shakespeare, or walking the noisy, crowded (and blessedly
stimulating) streets of Spithead with Horatio, engaged in interesting
conversation, finding something lovely and fulfilling to eat and
something warm to drink, and knowing that I was not alone....
I awakened, once more alone, a dreadful chill running through
sound of the rain falling hard upon the roof somehow makes me feel
further isolated; and the misty curtain it hangs over the courtyard
hides the rest of the world from my view (for that courtyard IS the
rest of my world, and I feel now more than ever that this cell will
ALWAYS be my world...). I can hear nothing save the rain -- no
voices, no footsteps, not even that horridly disturbing sound of keys
turning in locks and metal doors closing; I can see nothing save this
cell and the grey blur beyond the barred window. Indeed, I have never
felt more alone...
How different this is from life in Indefatigable! There, I
18 inches for my hammock, and rarely did I pass a night in continuous
slumber, for often was I obliged to wake for my watch, or to be
disturbed by the comings and goings of my mess-mates. But...there is
little point to remembering that, for I fear it shall never happen
again. Why is humankind so blessed and cursed with memories! For the
mind to keep them alive, but the soul to be ever deprived of such
experiences again (in this mortal lifetime), is for certain the
cruelest whim of fate...
True to my ponderings of last-night, I did indeed dream about
Horatio. I dreamt we were standing on the Indy's rolling deck, the
endless sky all about us, it being that certain shade of blue one
sees only a several times in the year; and we were talking. Talking
of home, of family, of the last watch, and of Oldroyd's latest
wagering scheme. Horatio had made it quite clear to the men that he
disapproved of such activity, but even he had to smile despite
himself when he learned of the absurdity of the young seaman's
latest plans: To wager as to the part of the ship that would first be
struck by a swell in the next storm, or (until such time as a
suitable storm should occur) the last man in the mess to be served at
supper-time. In the dream, Horatio laughed as he told me of these
schemes, and how he had had to be firm in his position about
gambling, with the men, but how he had longed, at the time, to
chuckle at the absurdity of such things. (I fancy that were Oldroyd
here, he might contrive to arrange an insect-race, or the like.) This
easy conversation continued for some time, and the fresh air came
cleanly into our lungs, and the sights and sounds of the ship running
under glorious full sail were a feast for my soul. So much to see, so
much to feel, so many years of my life ahead of me, it all seemed as
vast and limitless as the sea itself. I felt alive, and I felt free...
And then something awakened me (it could not have been a sound,
unless it was the sound of the rain thundering upon the roof above
me). Perhaps it was that dreadfull chill, for early on I became aware
of the painful inadequacy of my blanket against such dampness as is
to be found in a cell with walls of this type, and no fire to be had.
So real had been the dream that I half-expected to see, on opening my
eyes, Horatio in the next hammock, disheveled and sleepy, but
there...there if Simpson were to threaten, there if I were to have a
Oh...no....what if I am to be troubled by fits, when I am here
alone... What if a guard were to hear the commotion -- might he think
me mad and shoot me on the spot? Might he think me possessed and
bring upon me further punishment, or torture, to excise the offending
spirit? I know little of the Spaniards' beliefs on such matters. At
the very least, I would endure the fits alone, with no one to comfort
me or prevent me from hurting myself. No one to be there when I am
finally to awaken (sometimes hours later, I am told), exhausted, in
such a condition of disorientation that always follows, and in need
of assurance that I am all-right...
I begin to fear that this terrible, aching loneliness shall
undoing, for if I am in such a state after these few (but
interminable) days, I fear greatly to wonder how I may fare after
weeks or months...
I..must... I must get out of here... I do not know how, but I must....
I do not know if I ever had a chance or not. It all happened
quickly. I didn't even realise I was doing it until....
What a joyous, incredible thing! What a gift I was given!
this morning, Don Massaredo spoke to me whilst I sat in the
courtyard, enjoying the most welcome sunshine, which I had sorely
missed yester-day. Out of respect, and fear, I stood, bowing my head
as he bid me good-morrow. The conversation went somewhat thusly:
"Senor Kennedy, it would appear to me that you are in
exercise, in order that you may recover from your ordeal on the sea."
Somewhat surprised that he had noted my state, and certainly
that he seemed concerned, I could only answer, "Yes, sir."
"Therefore," he smiled that sincere smile of his
nonetheless, disquieting...) "I have decided to allow you a few
hours of exercise in the surrounding grounds."
"Sir??" I was greatly shocked now.
"I understand your confusion, Senor. However, I believe
I will take
the gamble, as you say, that you will not try to escape. I doubt
that you could get far, anyway" -- the slightest hint of that
steeliness had returned to his gaze -- "certainly not in that English
uniform: The villagers know who you are, and my men are
There was something enigmatic and dangerous in the way he said
something that should have been a warning to me. I did take it as
such, at the time, but pushed it to somewhere in the back of my weary
mind, for I was giddy with the thought of breathing free air, of
seeing something beyond these cold, high walls, of being once more
exposed to sights, sounds, smells, and activity that were more a part
of the vast world beyond these tiny confines than anything I had
experienced in what seemed a lifetime. I had great difficulty in
containing my excitement, but I forced myself, and I simply said:
"Thank you, sir." He bowed his head, his smile warmer
"When am I to be so honoured with your generous gift?"
"Oh, Senor, my apologies, I have neglected to tell you:
have returned for a time to your cell and had your midday meal, a
guard will escort you to the gate and, if you wish, you may see the
afternoon in the village."
I could hardly breathe for my excitement. A breathless "Thank
sir," was all I could manage.
My captor turned and started to leave, his eight-guard entourage
him, when suddenly he turned back and added, devoid of all
emotion, "Do not disappoint me, Senor Kennedy." Without another
word, he took his leave of me.
There stood I, I am certain with my mouth gaping open, until
guards brought me back to my cell to await the promised meal (noon
would not come for hours yet) and the anxiously anticipated respite
from captivity.... I could scarce contain myself....
It seemed past three (though in reality it was in fact about
time) when my meal, such as it was, arrived. Again I was confronted
with that queer bean-like liquid and some two-day-old bread. The
water today was not too bad, and somehow the meal gave me the
strength I needed to... well, I shall discuss that in a moment....
Suffice it to say that I would have been better off had I felt weak
At last, the door was opened, and three guards escorted me
the familiar courtyard, along a covered walkway, and into the open,
and finally to the main gates of the fortress. Three, I had thought,
seemed excessive, but I was to later realise that there had been a
point to the show. For the moment, however, they opened the high
metal gates and I took a step forward. Only one step. I looked back
at them, half-expecting them to shoot me in the back were I to
venture further. One of them, a kind-looking chap, nodded to me,
with a smile (though the other two looked decidedly stern), and on I
Through the gates.
Away from the prison.
I learned that the fortress was situated high upon a craggy
with rough pathways all round, or at least on three sides; the fourth
side was a sheer drop to the sea, with tall, jagged rocks rising like
gigantic teeth from the swirling waters below. Though I could have
walked toward the village, I was drawn instead up to the cliffs, for
it was there that I felt most free, and most like I was back upon the
Indy, the clean waters of freedom crashing and spraying all about.
The longing it raised in me was enough to bring me to tears, which
felt odd amidst the giddiness that still buoyed my spirits.
Perhaps it was this odd combination of warring sensations that
to ruin -- for I suddenly found myself running down the cliffside
pathway I had just taken some time to ascend, running such as I had
never run in my life, more desperate to get away than I had been to
get away from Simpson, more starved and longing for air than I had
been on one occasion when I had been swept overboard a capsized
longboat. I ran away from the fortress, down winding pathways, over
shrubs, and toward a village I could see a short distance away. When
I started there was no-one in immediate view, but as I came closer to
the village, there were more and more people about. In my
uncontrolled frenzy I hardly noticed them.
I began to become aware that running was not the wisest thing
have been doing at the time, and I began to fear the consequences,
but I was unable to stop myself, even with my heart pounding and my
chest and lungs beginning to ache. All I could feel was the wind
sweeping over me, whistling in my ears, drying the sweat from my face
as quickly as it could form. It felt, for a few wonderful,
indescribable moments, like the wind on the Indy, the kind of wind
that fills every sail in the ship... the kind of wind that makes a
man feel free, like he could go on forever...
I do not even know if I had intended to do what I had done.
mattered little to the four uniformed soldiers who had apparently
been in the village whilst off-duty, as they, immediately upon seeing
me running (in full English uniform), took me for an escaped prisoner
and with cold precision trained their weapons upon me, shouting in
Spanish (which I understood only too painfully well) for me to stop
or they would fire. Perhaps I WAS an escaped prisoner; at that point
I did not even know. But again, it mattered little, for two of them
grabbed my shoulders (the other two keeping rifles close upon me) and
literally dragged and pushed me back to the gates of the fortress....
It was a sunny, warm afternoon as I stood before Don Massaredo,
eight guards round him and six more behind and round me. Now I could
feel the sweat beneath my wool jacket, my throat was dry, and my face
was hot, from exertion and from terror and dread. He just stood
there, looking at me, not saying a word, for what felt like forever.
At length, he drew himself up and approached me, looking me in what I
forced to be my unwavering eyes, and said:
"You have greatly disappointed me, Senor Kennedy. I have
you a courtesy and a privilege, and you have insulted me."
"Sir, I --" I was GOING to say that I had not intended
to attempt to
escape -- that I was merely running, grateful (and surprised) that at
last I had found the strength to do so, so much so that I had been
unable to stop; but I doubted that he would have believed me.
Indeed, I did not even believe myself, so I said nothing further.
This was just as well, as the Don's eyes flashed with anger at my
daring to speak, but quieted, even softened somewhat when I fell
silent. Very disquieting indeed. I knew then that I could have no
way of knowing with what I would be dealing, with this man...
"This will not happen again, Senor," he went on.
"I feel that you
have had enough exercise for a time, as it would seem you were not as
weak as you would have had me believe...." His last few words
exposed a carefully calculated hint of sarcasm.
Again I thought of speaking; I did not want him to think that
earlier weakness had been feigned. Indeed, I had no idea where my
strength had suddenly come from. But again I thought better of it,
and remained silent.
"You will be confined to your cell for a period of two
heart dropped. "You will not be allowed out to take the sun, and all
of your meals will be brought to your cell."
It took all of the strength I had to stand fast and keep my
"And...." there was that wicked flash in his eyes
again, but it was
quiet, not violent, but deliberate... "since you seem to have
regained sufficient strength, your portions will be reduced for two
My heart sank further. Already I was starving. But I did
him see my fear, disappointment, and longing.
The Don turned on his heel, his entourage with him, and at
remaining half-dozen guards took me back to my cell. One of them
pushed me through the doorway, and the door was slammed and locked
with a particularly loud rattling of keys.
For a moment I just stood there, staring at the wall but not
it, numb and unable to let out a breath. Then, slowly, with a barely
noticeable sting at first, I felt a tear escape, then another, then
my cheeks were burning, and my body trembling, and then I staggered a
few steps forward and collapsed, face-down, upon my bed, sobbing
uncontrollably, until at last merciful sleep claimed me....
I do not know if I ever had a chance or not. It all happened
quickly. I hadn't even realised I was doing it......
I believe it has been a day which has passed since last I wrote;
say it thus, as I had awakened for only long enough a time to commit
my last words to paper before I was again to fall into a long and
blessed sleep. I realise now that I must have exhausted myself, both
in body and in spirit, by my foolish actions; and that I was further
exhausted by the news of my punishment and what it has already done
I am so terribly hungry, more so than I have ever been in my
More so than that time Justinian was far asea and the supply ship had
been sunk. More so than when Simpson had taken all of the
midshipmen's rations for two days, only to make it clear that he
COULD, for at that time, I had my mess-mates to share in the burden
and my duties to distract me from the hollow pain in my belly. What
little food I AM given now is almost inedible. I fear the Dons have
taken retribution in the quality (as bad as it formerly was) as well
as in the portions: The last bread I received was more mould than
bread, and there was almost naught remaining once I dug the sickening
green-blue and white patches from its surface.
Worse, my water ration has also been reduced proportionately,
consequently my throat is dry and sore. Thankfully, my cold had
improved to some degree, prior to my attempt, as I shall call it; I
do not want to think about what it would have felt like a few days
ago, with my present limited water...
But what plagues my heart more than anything is the question,
Why did I do it?? I knew I should stop, I KNEW that were any of the
soldiers to see me they would take me for an escaped English
prisoner. I could scarcely even continue, for the pain in my chest.
And yet I DID continue. Oh, how wonderful it felt! To run, to have
nothing before me, and no one behind me... No limits, no rules, no
one telling me I could not, no one watching me, no one locking a door
No one pointing a weapon at me....
...at least, not for a little while....
I keep trying to tell myself that that priceless, endless feeling,
that little glimpse of freedom was worth the consequences I am now
facing. I keep trying to tell myself that that promise of freedom
should be enough to make me able to go on, to endure for however long
I MUST endure, for it should make me to know now how it WILL feel
again, and I should believe that I will indeed BE free again....
But what my desperately lonely soul is telling me instead is
that small taste of freedom is not enough, and it never WILL be
enough.... My embarrassment at my actions and my shame at being so
dishonourable as to betray the Don's trust (aye, even a Don's
trust...) overwhelm me. I could not face him now, and I cannot face
myself. My shame makes worse my pain, fear, and loneliness. Oh, I
cannot bear to remain here one more day! How can I live with myself,
and what I have DONE to myself? This is my doing, that is the horror
of it -- the knowledge that I COULD have prevented this, that I COULD
have avoided bringing more pain upon myself...
I want, more than anything in this world, to go home.... not
Indefatigable, but home....
But even if I COULD do that (which I fear I never shall), my
would follow me, and my shame would seat itself in my heart, and
Father would know... he would know that his son would never be good
enough, would never BE anything, would never be half the man he is...
There is no place for me... and there never WILL be... It does
matter if I NEVER leave here.... Not to anyone.....
I have not written for a day or so: There was no purpose to
Naught has changed save my ever-increasing hunger, loneliness, guilt,
and despair. It has been, I think, four (or perhaps five) days since
my foolish attempt, and it seems the Dons are still quite angry with
me. The food situation has not improved, I am barely getting enough
to subsist upon, and I begin to find myself growing weak again. To-
day I have had no feeling for rising from my bed, nor to put on my
jacket or to tie my neck-cloth, for I am not worthy of this uniform,
nor, I fear, will wearing it ever again serve a purpose...
Something happened in the afternoon: I heard a commotion in
courtyard so busy that I forced myself to get up and go to the window
(I find this increasingly difficult, not only for my growing
weakness, but that it is just so hard to look upon the out-of-doors
and know I cannot be a part of it..). My eyes were greeted by the
sight of a fine carriage arriving, pulled by great sleek horses, and
attended by mounted soldiers great in number. They were Frogs. I
saw Don Massaredo cross the courtyard, his guard with him, to greet
Emerging from the carriage, stepping deliberately down onto
lowered step and onto the dusty ground (which he appeared to regard
with some disdain) was a very well-dressed, very self-assured-
appearing Frog Colonel. He had narrow, searching eyes and close-cut,
curly brown hair, and he greeted my captor with an aristocratic smile
that seemed to be hiding something. Nonetheless, the Don bowed to
the visitor, smiling his greeting, and with a broad gesture showed
him toward his home, back across the courtyard.
As the attendants began to tend to the horses and the carriage,
watched the two men and wondered at what might be going on (or what
might NOT be), and who this visitor might be. I knew nothing of him,
certainly, but there was an air to him that disquieted me still more
so than the state of dread and fear that already held me. I thought
on this for a time until my weakness again forced me back to my bed,
and, thankfully, I fell asleep for a time.
I awakened some time later, thinking at first I might be still
dream, or perhaps free and back home at the family estate, for the
first stirrings of my consciousness were brought round by a very
lovely and warm smell, no, a mixture of several delicious smells; and
at length I realised that a full dinner must be presently being
prepared, for the Don to entertain his guest. So wonderful and
strong were those long-missed aromas that they overpowered even the
growing stench in my cell (which was becoming so dreadful I fear I
have perhaps been starting to lose that particular sense, or else
become immune). For a moment, with my eyes still closed, I was taken
back to my childhood, on one of those many days when a formal dinner
was in the offing, and the servants would be busily seeing to the
preparations, and all sorts of lovely smells would promise many and
varied delights for the meal. I felt safe and warm and cared-for,
and for the briefest moment I believed my awful hunger would at last
And then full consciousness reminded me that there would be
me....that I was no more than an English prisoner who had doomed
myself to lose the few privileges I had had.... that good, hot meals
of meat and fresh vegetables and fruit were the sole province and
privilege of my enemy -- an enemy who cared not for my weakness and
longing, an enemy who would let me die for my transgression.
Upon this realisation, I again closed my eyes, in the desperate
I might once again succumb to blessed slumber, and be granted the
gift of DREAMING, at least, of taking such a meal.... Sleep and
dreams were now all I had, for what the Dons had just done to me was
the most cruel torture I could imagine, and in my present state, far
more than I could bear....
The dull ache in my head stirred me to consciousness -- cursed
consciousness! -- and began to build as I came fully awake. This
headache has hung over me like a shadow since yester-day, my only
companion save the things that crawl about, and over me in the
darkness, and I fear it shall not subside until I have had something
to eat, something that is free of mould, something hot, something
that may begin to satisfy the longing in my soul...
I had a visitor to-day, but not a welcome one. His calling
on me has
left me more afeared than before, and I have now a nameless sense of
dread, and a further sense of how completely others are now
controlling my life. Not like the Navy controlled it -- that was
quite a different thing altogether. I shall elaborate...
I had been lying in my bed, too weak even to rise without great
effort, and, with no reason to do so, not so inclined. At once I
heard the familiar turning of the key in the lock (which never fails
to send my heart leaping into my throat, and to cause a sudden and
extreme heaviness deep within my belly), and the door was thrust
open. In stepped that Frog Colonel whom I had seen in the courtyard
yester-day, slowly, deliberately, and not showing the slightest
reaction at the, shall we say, state of things in my cell. I feared
the pounding of my heart would set it to explode, but I had not the
strength even to stand before him. Perhaps something deep inside of
me was hoping for mercy, or even sympathy, from this stranger; but
when I saw his eyes, devoid of all emotion, and the coldness of his
slightly upturned lips, I abandoned any ideation of hope I might have
"Mister Kennedy. I am Colonel Etienne deVergesse."
disquietingly calm announcement seemed to indicate he wished an
immediate response, perhaps an expectation that I find it
significant. Every fiber of my being knew that I should make the
effort to rise, but I was simply too weak, and had, in truth, ceased
"Good day to you, sir," was all I could manage.
I hoped desperately
that it would be enough. It was not.
"Mister Kennedy, you will stand in the presence of a superior
officer!" His voice was still controlled, not loud, but just raised
enough as to send a hot dread spreading throughout my body. There
was some quality in his words -- and his voice -- that had the same
effect upon me as would three guards with weapons pointed at me.
Stunned silent, I began the slow process of rising from my bed. The
Colonel waited in patient, calculated silence, and I could feel his
eyes observing every move I made, every wince, every second that my
weakening body needed to complete the simple task of getting to my
At last I stood before him, looking quite a shambles, I fancy:
open and untucked, no neckcloth, no jacket, no queue ribbon, and
desperately needing to wash. For the first time I felt true shame at
my appearance where a moment ago I had given no thought to it
whatsoever. He was perfect -- absolutely perfect: Standing erect,
every hair in place, uniform spotless and without wrinkle, smelling
of fine French scent. Before him I felt like a man defeated,
inferior, unworthy. It was no wonder at all that they had taken my
privileges, for I did not at that moment even look or feel like an
officer -- even a midshipman -- and did not deserve such
"I am told by our host" [OUR host?? To me, the Don
was enemy and
captor...] "that you have not been satisfied with
his....hospitality." The coolness and deliberateness had returned to
his voice, and no reference was made to my failure to respond
immediately to his presence. "That is unfortunate. I have known His
Excellency for some time, and I have never known him to be anything
less than supremely gracious toward his guests." Again he spoke in
such terms. "But I would caution you, Mister Kennedy" -- and his
eyes bore into mine -- "that his patience has limits. I would
strongly advise that you accept His Excellency's hospitality as
graciously as he offers it, or you may find that conditions, such as
you know them" -- he looked round my cell for emphasis -- "are not so
unpleasant as you may think." With his last words he raised one
eyebrow, ever so slightly, and turned on his heel to leave, the guard
who had been standing in the doorway (weapon at the ready) moving
aside to let him through. The Colonel stopped at the last moment,
however, and turned to me again. "Good day, Mister Kennedy. I trust
we shall see each other again soon. Perhaps at dinner sometime?"
Again, devoid of all emotion. And he was gone, and the door was once
more locked behind him.
It is fortunate that I had been standing (forcing myself to
truth be known) so close to my bed, for I collapsed almost at once
upon it in exhaustion and fear; but not before standing frozen for a
moment, my heart still pounding, and me wondering on what he had
said. (Those last words -- how could he have said that to me??) As
I curled up on the hard bed, drawing my legs up and in toward my
chest and pulling the blanket over my trembling body, I thought about
this strange encounter, and about my unwelcome visitor's words. More
than that, about the words he did NOT say... Did that bloody Frog
really believe that my life could become worse than it is now? What
could be more horrible, more lonely, more painful than slowly
starving, alone, in this dreadful little cell? What could be more
sickening than the awful stench in here, and scarcely being able to
breathe unless I was right next to the window? What could be more
demoralising than being taunted by those wondrous smells from the
kitchen, and the sunlight streaming through the bars, and feeling my
legs wasting from under me because my entire world is limited to this
one tiny piece of the cold, hard, lonely world??
What frightened me even more was the thought that there MUST
something he knew, that I did NOT know...something that COULD be
worse than my present situation... Unconsciously I closed my eyes in
a vain effort to shut out the nameless terror with which my body was
now trembling. These men were dangerous, I had no way of knowing
what they were capable of, and they were in control of every aspect
of my life....
For perhaps a very long time to come... perhaps the rest of
Knowing this, how could I ever think about once more attempting
get out of here, to free myself from these walls and from this
paralysing fear? What might they do to me were I to be caught in
another attempt as foolish and ill-conceived as the last? But if
they WERE capable of further atrocities, what would stop them from
inflicting more punishment upon me, whether I earned it, by
attempting to escape, or not? I am exhausted, and hungry, and
beginning to lose whatever sense I had left of who I am, or WAS, and
where I came from, and where I belong. But even in such a state, I
am just clear enough to see what they are doing to me... what they
will CONTINUE to do to me....
How can I ever think of making another attempt?
....How can I not....
What was I thinking last night? Escape again?? I most certainly
must be mad. I'll never get out of here, not by escape, not by
parole, not by release...
It was just that when that Frog came in here, looking the way
and so self-assured, it made me feel like nothing. And rightly so,
for that is what I am, and that is what I always SHALL be. I don't
even know how this happened -- one moment I was in the jollyboat on
the way to Papillon, and the next, I was adrift, alone, with no
knowledge of how I came to be there. I should never have entered
into the Navy, I do not belong there, I am not good enough... I do
not belong anywhere...
So it matters not if I should stay here...
Two weeks confined in this cell, with almost no food, and not
water. That is the price I am paying for attempting to escape. What
might they do to me should I again try and fail? I cannot take the
risk, for I could not bear a harsher punishment. I begin now to
think in terms that this particular sentence is half-way through (if
the Don is true to his word; I fear I have no way of knowing if he
shall honour it or choose to keep me thus for a longer time), and if
I can endure as I have done so for the past week, I might again be
accorded the privilege of going out-side and taking the sun, and
perhaps having more food, and this dreadful, empty aching in my belly
might subside... I can think of nothing else I might ever be able to
look forward to, only simple things like the warmth of the sun on my
face, and some fresh wash-water and the chance to feel clean. To
hope for anything else will bring naught but disappointment, and I
shall not put myself in such a position again, only to have my hopes
No... escape is not possible... I am too weak, and too afraid...
cannot accomplish it, and I cannot try.... All I CAN do is to hope
for a long sleep, that the time may pass more quickly....
Oh, will I ever feel anything but hunger and fear..... I deserve
nothing more anyway...
"Oh....you're here.. for a moment I was afraid I was alone...."
"No...I'm right here.... Are you all right?"
"I'm trying to be... I was having a dream...."
"I dreamt that I was here by myself....and it was a long
time, such a
very long time, and I was not well, and I was hungry, and
frightened... Frightened that I might have a fit, and there would be
no one here to... well, to...."
"It's all right, Archie, it was just a bad dream... You're
and you're not having fits, and even if you DID, I would be here for
"Thank you.... Oh Horatio, it was dreadful... I tried
to run, and
they caught me, and then they locked me in here and wouldn't let me
out, and then they tried to starve me... I couldn't bear it, I
couldn't, I was so hungry, and it was so cold at night, and so dark,
and -- "
How long ago had I had that dream? It seemed so far in the
and hazy, like the edges of a ship sailing through a fog.... I SHOULD
have found myself in my bed, with that fuzzy, just-awakening feeling
that follows such a vivid dream, but I awoke to find myself lying on
the floor near my bed, the blanket draped over the edge and onto the
floor; and feeling thoroughly exhausted. As consciousness more fully
claimed me, I noted that my hip felt quite sore, like it had perhaps
been bruised, and I had a dreadful headache.
Oh...no........Had I had a fit? I did not remember, but then,
seldom DID.... I MUST have done..I'm so tired... Oh no, why now? And
what if the guards heard me? What might they do to me? Might they
think me mad?? If I am very fortunate, perhaps they did not even
notice, for it is night, and it would seem to me that they sometimes
are not even about so much at these late hours...
Slowly, with great effort, and feeling terribly exhausted,
myself up onto my knees, and, after thus resting awhile, eventually
brought myself up and onto my bed. Painfully (for every muscle now
seemed to ache), I pulled the blanket up and over me, but I shivered
I closed my eyes (there would not have been much difference
not, for it is terribly dark here at night) and began to ponder the
dream I was beginning to recall more clearly. Had it triggered the
fit I now believed I had had? Why? It seemed a GOOD dream, though
it left me feeling more utterly alone than I already HAD been
feeling. It was quite lovely, in fact, for in the dream I was NOT
alone, Horatio was here with me, and I felt.... safe. I felt cared-
for. I felt like maybe I WOULD make it, that I might NOT go mad here
all alone... I felt sorrow for my friend, that he too was fated to
share in my misfortune. But I also knew that he was all right, that
he would deal with it because he was Horatio, and he was strong, and
he would have enough strength in him to help me as well....
I could have taken it, if he was here.... I think I would have
it... I do not know how I am going to survive this on my own... My
situation is no different now than it was a few hours ago. Yet why
does my loneliness now seem so much more all-consuming, painful, and
unbearable than it did before? I feel as though I have lost
something, but it is something that I never truly had....
Oh Horatio... where are you.... I wish I didn't need you...
...but I DO....blast me, I do.....