Dark Harbor, Part Three
by Lori

Archie tried to sleep. He wanted to sleep, but his swimming head
wouldn't allow it. He forced his stinging eyes to stay open as he stared out
into the darkness of his bedroom beyond the crème-colored curtains of the
canopy over his bed.
The cold wind blew outside, shaking the bare tree. The branches
scratched and scraped against the window pane, which shuddered against the
draft that tore through the house.
Archie swallowed as a wave of dizziness swept over him. Finally, his
eyes slowly closed and his fever-wracked body let him drift peacefully to
sleep.
He was startled awake in the wee hours of the morning by that blasted tree
outside. He reached for the blankets when a hand came through the curtains to
help. He pushed the drapes aside to find his older sister smiling warmly back
at him.
"Catherine," he sighed, letting his hand fall to his side again.
Catherine sat down on the bed beside him, her blue eyes twinkling.
"How are you feeling, Archie?" she asked softly.
"Miserable. It's freezing in here!" He reached for the covers again.
"It's warm in here, actually. It's your fever, Archie. Just lay
quiet." She picked up the rag from the bedside table, dipped it in the cool
water from the bowl and gently placed it on his sweat-beaded forehead.
"How did I get here?" he asked after licking his dry lips.
"You don't remember?"
He shook his head.
She poured a cup of water and put it to his lips "Your Captain put you
on sick leave a few days ago. You've hardly been awake since you arrived
home."
"Has the doctor been?" he questioned, swallowing the sip of water.
"No, he hasn't been to see you yet. He should be here tomorrow,
though." Catherine removed the now hot rag to rewet it. When she was about to
replace it, though, she realized that her brother had fallen asleep. She
smiled and brought the covers up for him. After standing, she lightly kissed
him on the forehead, then left to go to her own bedroom.

Doctor Jamison arrived early the following morning in order to check
on Archie while he was still resting.
Catherine and her father, Lord Kennedy, stood at the foot of the bed
while the physician performed his examination.
"He was at sea when this happened?" asked Jamison.
"Yes," began Lord Kennedy calmly. "The surgeon of the ship he served
advised his Captain that my son should come home. He told us that a doctor on
shore would know what this was."
Jamison continued with his exam. He was most interested in the bandage
that had been carefully wrapped around Archie's neck. With thin fingers, he
carefully undid the dressing to reveal the wound beneath.
Catherine let out a small gasp as her hand went to rest on her heart.
"What has the ship's surgeon told you about these marks?" Jamison
questioned.
Lord Kennedy spoke again. "He told us precious little. He was at a
loss as to an explanation for them." He swallowed nervously.
"Whatwhat could have done such a thing to him?" asked Catherine
hesitantly.
"It's difficult to say, my dear. Most likely, it was some sort of
animal. A dog, perhaps. Then again, I'm only trying to provide a sound
explanation."
Catherine sighed and turned to Lord Kennedy. "I am in need of fresh
air, Father. I shall return in a moment." She hurried from the room.
Jamison replaced the bandage and moved to stand in front of Lord
Kennedy. "I am deeply troubled by your son's illness, My Lord," he said sadly.
"What do you think it is, Doctor?"
"I don't know. I've never seen, read, nor heard of such a case in all
my years. I am completely dumbfounded. I regret that I cannot provide you
with a sound explanation, My Lord."
Lord Kennedy was quiet as he watched Archie sleep. "How do you intend
to treat him?" he asked after a moment.
The doctor hesitated before answering. "Bleeding him, My Lord."

It was well into the afternoon before Doctor Jamison was certain that
a blood letting was needed. He left Catherine and Lady Kennedy in the parlor
down stairs and calmly climbed the stairs once again to see his patient.
Catherine rubbed her hands together in anxiety.
She loved her brother dearly and she hated to see him in such a state
of discomfort.
The servant entered with a fresh pot of tea and set the tray down onto
the table. "Tea, My Lady?"
"Oh, er, yes, thank you." Lady Kennedy was probably as frightened as
her daughter.
"Would you like a cup of tea, Miss Catherine?"
Catherine stared at the servant blankly.
"Yes. She would love one. Thank you, Isabelle," answered Lady Kennedy.
Isabelle calmly filled the small cups and handed them to each woman.
"Ma'am." She gave a small curtsey and a warm smile before turning and leaving
the parlor.
As Catherine took a first sip of the hot drink, she laughed. "It's
silly of me to be so worried. Archie will be fine! I think he may actually be
showing signs of recovery." She smiled at her mother, though she was still
frightened for her sibling, and resumed to sipping her tea.

Archie had been woken up at Jamison's entrance to the room. He sighed,
annoyed, and sat up. He had been vaguely aware of the prodding he received
earlier in that day and he surely wasn't in the mood for anything else.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Kennedy! Are we feeling at all better?" asked
Jamison as he tied back the curtains of the bed.
"Yes, somewhat. Thank you, doctor." Archie swallowed nervously as he
watched a peculiar looking blade from the physician's bag being placed on the
bedside table.
"This is going to take great cooperation on your part, Mr. Kennedy. If
you would please just lay back and calm yourself, I shall try to make this
procedure pass as quickly as possible."
Archie lay down again and rearranged the covers.
Jamison moved the chair closer to his patient's side. "May I have your
arm please?"
Kennedy extended his right arm to the doctor and closed his eyes with
a deep breath.
With the glass cup in his left hand, Jamison carefully punctured the
flesh on the underside of Archie's forearm, then repeated this same step. He
quickly positioned the cup beneath the small wounds and watched the blood
flow in a thin rivulet to drip into the container in a steady rhythm.

Catherine was calmly working on her stitching project when Jamison
returned downstairs. She sprang to her feet from her chair as he made his
appearance in the parlor. "How is he?" she asked in a rush.
The doctor smiled. "He's resting peacefully, my dear. The procedure
went quite well, considering."
"Will you be staying for dinner, Doctor Jamison?" asked Lord Kennedy.
"I must respectfully decline, my Lord. I still have business to finish as
of yet and I may fall dreadfully behind if I don't see to it directly. I must
be taking my leave. Good night, My Lord, My Lady."
Once the doctor was gone, Lord and Lady Kennedy moved towards the dining
room.
"Come, dear," began Lady Kennedy. "You haven't had anything to eat at all
this day! Come have dinner with us."
Catherine began to follow her parents, but stopped by the stairs. She
stared up to the second floor, her mind preoccupied with a million thoughts
of her brother.
"Archie will be all right! You shouldn't worry yourself so!" Lord
Kennedy gave his daughter a reassuring smile.

About a quarter of the way through the meal, the sun already set, the
bell out in the front hall sounded, announcing that someone had come to pay a
visit.
"I'll answer it, Father." Catherine stood from the table and calmly
walked from the dining hall. When she reached the front door, she opened it
to reveal a lanky man in uniform. "May I help you?" she asked him.
"Forgive me for calling upon you at this late hour, Ma'am. I'm
Leftenant Horatio Hornblower." He licked his lips nervously.
"Mr. Hornblower! By all means, come in!" She stepped aside with a
bright smile to let the naval officer enter.
When Hornblower made his entrance into the dining hall, he removed his
hat in respect to greet the Lord and Lady of the house.
"Mother, Father, this is Leftenant Horatio Hornblower. Mr. Hornblower,
these are my parents, Lord Whelan and Lady Gwendolen."
Lady Gwendolen stood to greet him. "It is such a pleasure to meet you
finally, Mr. Hornblower. My son speaks so highly of you!" She smiled brightly
at him.
Horatio and Lord Kennedy shook hands.
"You must forgive me for interrupting your dinner, My lord," he said,
taking his cloak off.
"Not at all! Would you care to join us, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Thank you for the offer, My Lady, but I have already" He cleared his
throat. "I've already eaten." Horatio paused. "I've come to inquire about
Archie. Is he recovering?"
"Slowly, but I am certain that he is." Catherine smiled. "I am sure he
wouldn't mind your company. Would you care to see him?"
"Yes! With your permission, ma'am."
The two made their way upstairs. When they reached the bedroom door,
Catherine knocked softly.
"Come in," came a soft voice from inside.
She opened the door and poked her head in. "You have a visitor,
Archie." She moved aside to let the second person enter.
"Horatio, " said Archie weakly, but happily. He smiled at the
appearance of his friend.
"I'll leave you two to talk. Goodnight, gentlemen!" Catherine left the
room, slowly closing the door behind her.
"What are you doing here, Horatio?" asked Archie.
"Why do you think? I'm here to see a friend!"
"Oh, thank you. I would not have known that if you had not told me!"
The two chuckled at the humorous remark.
"Well, Archie, um." Hornblower reached into his jacket pocket. "Dr.
Stevenson aboard the Indy, he, er, he wanted me to give this to you. He said
it would help with your illness." He handed the bottle of dark red liquid to
Kennedy, who began to study it when he took it in his hand.
Horatio sat down on the bench at the foot of the bed.
"Really, Horatio. You know perfectly well that I do not believe in
potions and all that nonsense!"
"Take it, Archie. It will help. Trust me."
Kennedy slowly sat up and studied the liquid for a few seconds more.
Finally, to Hornblower's relief, he pulled out the cork and poured a small
amount of it into his mouth. His face screwed up in disgust at the metallic
taste of it. "This had better work!" he said. "This tastes awful!"
"You will get used to it. Finish it all now."
Archie did so reluctantly, re-corked the bottle and placed it on the
table. He yawned. "Is it supposed to make me this tired?"
Horatio hesitated. "I, er, wouldn't know. Dr. Stevenson didn't say
what its effects would be." He sighed and made for the door. "It is getting
rather late. I should leave you to rest, Archie."
Kennedy lay back against his pillows again. "Goodnight, Horatio," he
said through another yawn.
"Good night." Hornblower took his leave now.
Archie blew out the candle, settled again and listened to the clatter
of the horse's hooves outside. Once the sound died away, he drifted into a
peaceful sleep.

***

Mrs. Halfrith, the housekeeper, entered Archie's quarters with the intent
of tidying up a bit for him. "Good day, Sir!" She went to the window and
opened the drapes. When she realized there was no reply from the occupant of
the room, she decided that she should not wake him just yet and went for the
door. She paused. Something from within the bed curtains caught her eye and
she approached it. When she pushed one of the curtains aside, she froze
completely.
She screamed.
She bolted from the room and went straight downstairs. "My Lord! My
Lady!" she skidded into the dining hall where Lord Whelan and Lady Gwendolen
were breakfasting. "My Lord! My Lady!"
"Mrs. Halfrith?" Lady Gwendolen was a bit confused at the
housekeeper's behavior this morning.
"It's Master Kennedy! He'she's dead!"
Lady Gwendolen gasped, her face paling with horror.
"WHAT!?" Lord Whelan dashed from the room and up to his son's chambers
with his wife in tow. He threw open the curtains to reveal Archie's body.
His head was lolled to the side, his blue eyes open partially and his
lips slightly separated. His expression was peaceful, which was a relief to
the suddenly grief-stricken family. They had seen Archie experience periods
of discomfort because of his "illness" and they were glad to know that he
hadn't suffered when the end finally came.
Lord Whelan let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. With
a shaking hand, he reached up and closed the eyelids of his now deceased
child.
Trembling with shock, Lady Gwendolen crossed the room from the doorway
to sit down beside her husband and cradle her son in her arms. "My lamb," she
whispered. "My precious lamb!" She gently stroked his hair as she began to
sob.
Catherine and her parents sat, silent, in the parlor when the
undertaker came later that morning. Her blue eyes were wide and rimmed with
tears as she stared at the rug. "He was getting better" she murmured, but
her thought trailed off when she completely broke down.

Horatio Hornblower paced his room. His right hand rubbed at the back
of his neck as he mentally scolded himself. "How could I have done anything
like this?" he asked himself angrily.
Madeleine looked up from the book she had been reading. "You did what
you thought was right, Horatio," she said.
"What right did I have in taking a man's life!?" Horatio sighed,
crossing his arms to rest them on the mantle of the fireplace. "Archie was
the only true friend I ever had. He helped me through some of my darkest
times. And what did I give him in return?" His dark eyes focused on the
flickering flames.
Madeleine sighed, put down her book and crossed the room. She came to
stand behind Hornblower and she placed a hand on his shoulder. "You obviously
don't have a complete understanding of this gift that I have given you." She
turned him around to face her, taking both his hands in hers. "I have given
you the chance to see eternity! A never-ending life is before you! You shall
be young always, Horatio!"
"What about Archie? What will happen to him?"
"In a few days, he shall be one of us, also. You saw to that."
Hornblower was silent as he let all this sink in. "I wonder if he'll
ever forgive me?"
"Horatio Hornblower! Will you stop being so serious? Of course he will
forgive you!"
Horatio paused. "I'm not that seriousam I?" he asked
self-consciously.
Madeleine giggled. "You have your moments, Horatio, but otherwise you
are as grim as an undertaker." She enclosed his face in her small hands and
smiled again. "You must learn to enjoy yourself for once!" She stepped back
and looked to the clock at the other end of the mantle. "Ah, dusk." She
turned to the window, surveyed the darkening sky, then turned back to
Hornblower. "Hungry?" She smirked.
After a brief moment, Horatio's face softened and his dark eyes
twinkled. "Famished," he replied, grinning.

The parlor was still and silent. The pitter-patter of the rain was
muffled by the glass in the window.
The coffin sat in the center of the room. With its glass lid, it let
all the living persons view their deceased family member in peace.
Lord Kennedy, Lady Kennedy and Catherine were closest to the coffin.
Lady Gwendolen wept, a white handkerchief pressed to her wet face, while Lord
Whelan held her hand in an attempt to bring comfort. Catherine, on the other
hand, was in a stunned silence. Her eyes seemed to be permanently fixed on
her brother's casket.
The funeral was to be in two days time to give relatives who lived
somewhat farther away time to arrive and pay their respects and condolences.

When the next evening enveloped the Kennedy home, Alexander, a cousin
to Catherine, was assigned to spend the two nights in the parlor to keep
watch over the coffin. This was the second night; the funeral being the
following morning.
Alexander yawned. As he crossed his arms, he felt his head begin to
dip forward from his sleepiness. He stood and took a few turns around the
room to see if he couldn't wake himself up.
No good.
He paused for a moment. The front door was just down the hall;
everyone in the house was asleep-who was going to see him leave the room for
a brief moment? Some cold air would certainly do his tiring body good.
Once he stepped over the threshold, he was immediately confronted by
the chilling air. He took two deep breaths and he could already feel himself
slowly waken.
A noise.
Alexander turned towards the doorway.
Another noise.
He entered the house again, quietly tiptoed down the hall and stuck
his head into the parlor. His brow furrowed.
Nothing was out of place or upset.
Alexander shook his head and retook his seat on the couch. He took a
few moments to sort through his thoughts and concluded that the sound he
heard was either movement of someone on the second floor or the frame of the
old house settling.

The house continued to be silent even as everyone dressed for that
bleak morning. The parlor had been vacated and locked earlier so that
Alexander could ready himself as well.
Lady Gwendolen opened Catherine's door slightly and poked her head in.
"Come, dear. We should be going now." She had been awake most of the night
and Catherine could tell when she looked up at her. Her once bright eyes were
now dull, edged with dark circles. Her voice was rough and showed no other
emotion than sadness.
Catherine sighed heavily. "Coming, mother," she replied simply.
Lady Kennedy quietly exited and made her way downstairs to greet the
rest of the family.
Catherine moved to her window and peered out at the gray morning. She
fingered a paper in her hand - a letter she received from Archie about a
month or two before - before unfolding it to read it again. She speedily read
the beautifully penned note, having memorized it from reading it a dozen
times. Her lip quivered as she folded it back up and placed it on her
dressing table. With a falling tear, she left her bedroom and went
downstairs. When she reached the foyer, she was in time to observe four male
members of the family unlock the parlor door and enter. Catherine was going
to stride over to the room across the hall that housed her parents and such,
but when she heard exclaims of surprise from the parlor, she hurriedly
stepped inside. As she grew closer to the center of the room, her breath
caught in her throat and she stopped dead.
A blood-curdling scream erupted from her, which prompted the rest of
the family to cure their confusion.
The lock of the casket was broken - and empty. The window on the
opposite wall was wide open.
Lady Kennedy fainted after realizing just what had happened.