Archie's Journal (Duchess & The Devil)
Part 4
by Michele

***

I feel as though I have slept a long time. The sun is still bright,
though it seems to cast a shadow that suggests afternoon; it is
difficult to tell, when I have hardly been awake for the past three
or so days, and when I am still not sure from which direction the sun
would be coming at this time of day, where I now find myself.

Rubbing the last lingering vestiges of sleep from my eyes, I looked
to the table beside me and saw a tray containing a covered bowl and
two small plates, one containing bread -- with butter! -- and one
containing fruit. There was also a cup of tea which must have long
since cooled. No matter. Using all the resolve and strength I could
muster, I reached out and took the buttered bread and ate. How good
it tasted! And it was fresh, with that special flavour that reminded
me of baking days back home... and of carefree times when life was
good, and I was loved and well cared for...

I felt my eyes begin to mist at the memory, and forced myself to
clear my throat (still a difficult thing to accomplish) in an effort
to keep myself calm. I thought of the day I had left home to go to
sea -- how it had been bittersweet, the promise of a means of at last
distinguishing myself in Father's eyes warring within me, with the
apprehension of leaving behind all that was familiar and secure.... I
thought of my first tentative days in Justinian, long before Horatio
had arrived, but so similar to *his* beginnings in that vessel. I
thought of my struggles to adjust, my initial loneliness, my eventual
successes with tasks set for me and in classes, and my growing
confidence in my new role as Midshipman in his majesty's navy. I
remembered the pride I had begun to feel as I had started to become
more and more comfortable in that role.

Then I recalled Simpson, and all the -- everything he had put me
through. I remembered again feeling alone, not being able to speak
of the torment he had inflicted upon me, and what it was doing to
me. And finally, I thought of Horatio, and how, when he had arrived,
I had again been able to feel pride that I could show him round and
help him to adjust. I had known comfort as he and Clayton had looked
after me when Simpson's torment was unceasing. I had at last found
release and relief when I had finally felt comfortable enough to
speak with Horatio about what had been taken from me. I knew that
somehow, no matter what Simpson did, I would endure and survive, for
strength and example were given me by my friends....

Then I remembered that day, finally in Indefatigable, when we took
the French convoy. And Horatio was given command over the Marie
Galant. Not me. Horatio. Even though I was the senior Midshipman.
Why had Captain Pellew chosen HIM and not me? Perhaps he saw me as
weak, because of my condition. Perhaps he was right... If not for
that, I might not be here now...

At these thoughts (which, try as I might, I could not push from my
weary mind), slowly I returned the bit of remaining bread to its
plate on the bedside table and leant back heavily on the pillow. I
AM here, and I am the only one. Of all the men on the Papillon
raiding party, I am the only one who is here. Pellew must have been
right. And what is going on now, in Indefatigable? Life is going on
without me. Men are living, working, feeling the free salt air in
their lungs, as men were MEANT to feel. Officers are being
promoted. Careers are advancing, lives are changing and moving on.
All without me. Horatio might be a lieutenant by now, or might be
considered for placement before the examination board. And *I* was
there first. *I* should be a lieutenant.... *I* should be living
that life... MY life.....

Being stuck here is more than I can bear, not knowing if I will ever
leave here, not knowing if I can ever return to my ship and my life,
and feel useful again.... and feel like a man again.... There is a
life out there, and it was mine, and it SHOULD be mine again, but now
I fear it may never be so again....

I don't care about the food anymore.... All I can do is look at the
light coming in, which *should* revitalise me, but does not, and the
still-ajar door, which should tempt me... But I know there is no
point in even trying....even if I WAS strong enough.... For they
would only catch me and take me back, and I would have less than I do
now.....

Less than my freedom...

Less than my self-respect....

....Less than my life.......