A Day (or So) in the Life
by Sue N.

**Chapter Eight: A Young Man's Fancy**

The more Addington saw of Indefatigable, her captain
and her crew, the more impressed he grew. All about
him, men were working to restore the ship to health,
to undo the effects of the merciless French cannon. It
was heavy, dirty, back-breaking work, yet the men bent
themselves to it with a fine determination, never
scrimping on effort, holding nothing back, but giving
their all to the work at hand.

And, to his surprise, they seemed to do it willingly.
True, the officers, the bosun and his mates walked
among them and watched over them, yet Addington never
saw the infamous cat come out of its bag, never saw
even the smallest hint that it might be needed. He had
heard horror tales of the Navy's reliance upon
flogging for keeping order, had read chilling accounts
of men whipped into submission like animals, yet he
saw none of that here. There was no fear among these
men of their officers, but only respect. And when
Pellew walked among them, that respect gave way to
unabashed awe and reverence. It was, Addington
thought, as if God himself had suddenly stepped into
their midst. He could easily imagine this crew
willingly throwing itself into the guns of any enemy
ship at their captain's command.

A singular world, indeed...

For their parts, the Addington girls were far less
interested in the minute details of the ship than
their father, and so were receiving a much less
technical tour. They were intrigued by the sights, the
sounds, the colour and atmosphere of their
surroundings, by the men who laughed and sang and
joked even as they toiled labouriously, by the romance
of being aboard a ship whose sole purpose was to find
the enemy and engage him. This was a life, a world,
far removed from their own, and they were wholly
fascinated by it.

"But where do you live?" Lucy asked in confusion,
gazing about the deck and seeing the double rows of
enormous black cannon. "Where do you sleep? And eat?
How can there possibly be room for all these men?"

Horatio smiled and pointed to the small cabins
arranged in rather cramped fashion between the guns.
"There, those are the officers' quarters," he said.
"On the Indy, each officer is fortunate enough to have
one to himself, though I understand it is not
necessarily so on other ships. Most everyone else
sleeps below, the ratings for'ard, the petty officers
aft, the midshipmen in the cockpit, and the lesser
petty officers and Marines scattered between. As for
where we eat, the captain has his dining room, we have
our wardroom, there is a gun-room mess and a mess for
the ratings."

"It sounds very cramped," Lucy marvelled. "Do you not
long for more space?"

Archie laughed. "When we are at sea, we have all the
space we need! It is like being alone in all the
world. We can go weeks without ever sighting another
sail." He looked about and tried to see the ship
through eyes unaccustomed to such a world. "I suppose
it does seem small and crowded, but," he shrugged,
"ones gets used to it."

"But if your quarters are here, between the guns,"
Elisabeth picked up, "then is it not very cramped in
battle? And will not all your belongings get blown
up?"

"Oh, no, Miss," Horatio explained patiently. "When we
clear for action, the cabins themselves are taken down
and they, along with everything in them, are simply
thrown down into the hold, out of the way. It is
really quite practical."

The girls were stunned, and appalled. To have all of
one's personal, valuable belongings just tossed down
into a hole--

"Even the captain's?" Lucy breathed in astonishment.
"Surely, he--"

"Oh, yes, even his," Archie said. "You see, he has two
guns in his cabin, and the crews must have room to
work them. His servant, however," he added with a
smile, "has sole responsibility for stowing his
belongings."

"But what if-- what if your ship is hit," Lucy
persisted, "and water gets in and ruins your things?"

Archie and Horatio exchanged knowing glances, then
Archie shrugged and answered quite nonchalantly,
"Well, if we are hit so badly as to be taking water
into the hold, then I dare say we have bigger problems
than wet belongings."

The answer -- both its calm tone and ugly meaning --
silenced Lucy and drained a bit of colour from her
face. She stared at Archie for long, long moments in a
stricken silence, suddenly realizing that a mere brawl
in Portsmouth and the injuries he had gotten in it
were as nothing compared to the potential horrors of a
battle at sea.

"How awful it must be!" she breathed, her wide brown
eyes still fixed upon him. "How cramped and noisy--
Are you not frightened during battle? Are you not
worried constantly about your ship sinking? About
getting hurt? And it must be terribly noisy with all
these cannon firing-- How can you even think?"

He frowned slightly and slowly shook his head. "I
don't really know. I simply try to block out the noise
and concentrate upon what must be done. We practice,
y'see, frequently, so when the time comes it is almost
instinctive. Each man knows his post, he knows his
duty, and when we beat to quarters, every man gets to
his place." His blue gaze found her face, saw the
concern in her eyes, and the sight sent an unfamiliar
warmth spreading through him. "It is terrible, I
suppose," he admitted softly, "but-- it is what we
do."

"And where is your post?" she asked, wanting --
needing -- to understand what it was he did. "When
you-- beat to quarters, where do you go?"

He turned away from her with an effort and waved
toward the guns. "Here. I have charge of the guns in
the slaughter-house--" Too late, he tried biting back
the words and failed, wincing as the ugly but common
term left her paler than ever. "I mean, the main part
of the gun deck, amidships." He reached out and laid a
hand on the nearest gun, almost caressing the massive
iron barrel. "These are twenty-four pounders, bigger
than most frigates carry. Each is manned by a crew of
nine, and every crew here can fire, reload and fire
again in just under two minutes. And hit their mark
every time."

Horatio heard the quiet pride in his friend's voice,
saw the light in the blue eyes, and had to smile.
There could be no doubt about it -- Archie had
definitely found his place on Indefatigable, and in
the Navy. He had become a gunnery officer.

Lucy stared at the cannon -- so unmistakably deadly,
even in repose -- and shuddered slightly. Turning
away, she suddenly noticed the gap in the line where
number four should have sat and the jagged hole where
once a gun port had been. "What happened there?"

"We lost that one," Archie said. "French shot struck
it and blew it into a twisted mess." Sorrow clouded
his eyes. "Lost most of the crew, as well," he
murmured softly, remembering the horror of that moment
all too clearly. Those who had not died had been
maimed for life; no one escaped when a gun blew.
"Ordnance is sending a new one, hopefully today. But
to get rid of the old one, we had to pry what remained
of it out of the deck and shove it overboard. Spent
all morning doing it."

"It-- blew up?" she whispered, turning back to stare
at him through wide and frightened eyes. "Then-- all
these-- could blow up? You could be-- killed?"

"It doesn't happen that often," he assured her
quickly, leaving the gun to go to her and
unconsciously taking her small, pale hand in his
uninjured one. "The French prefer to fire into the
rigging, up high. Their aim is to disable us so they
can board us and take us by force of numbers. Their
ships are bigger, and they carry more men. But we are
still better than they! Our gunners are better, our
captains are better, and our men are better. Their
casualties are usually much higher than ours, and we
almost always carry the day." He smiled slightly,
holding her gaze with his. "In a ship-to-ship duel, an
English frigate is more than a match for any Frog ship
afloat. And the Indy is the best of them all."

"So you are not in too much danger?" she asked softly,
gazing intently at his bruised face and holding
tightly to his hand.

"No more so than any other officer," he assured her
quickly, elated that she should care. "Indeed, the
captain himself is in far more danger than I! Look, I
am down here, surrounded by guns, protected by the
ship, while he is up on the quarter-deck, in plain
view, exposed to cannon and muskets. And the men in
the rigging, what of them? The poor devils have to
stay up there, high above the ship and the ocean,
while the French are trying like the very devil to
dismast us! So, you see," he smiled sweetly, "I am in
the very safest place I could be. You need never worry
about me."

"And yet I fear that is all I shall ever do," she
breathed, never once stopping to consider why that
should be. "These guns-- still seem so very
dangerous--"

"Aye, that they are," he laughed, "but more to the
Frogs than to us! If you know them and take care of
them, then they shall take care of you. Look," he held
her hand and led her down the line, "each gun is
different, y'see, even though they all look alike.
This one," he stopped at number six and laid his
bandaged hand on the long, cold barrel, "sights high,
every time. And the longer she's fired, the higher she
sights. The heat of firing changes the barrel. They
can literally get red-hot if you're not careful, and
can warp horribly. The crew has to take care that
never happens. And this one," he went to number eight,
a particular favourite, "sights truer than any gun you
will ever see. She also throws her shot just a bit
farther than the others." He gently patted the barrel,
never knowing he did so. "She's the one that finally
brought that frigate to heel. Cleared the quarter-deck
with one shot and got the Frogs to strike." And he had
laid her aim himself...

"You should have heard the cheer that went up from the
ship," Horatio put in with a broad smile. "Even
Captain Pellew remarked upon it."

Archie rounded upon Horatio and stared at him in
disbelief. "He didn't! He would never--"

"But he did," Horatio assured him. "I believe his
exact words were, ëDamned fine shooting.'"

Archie blinked, astonished. "He s-- he said that?" he
breathed, those three spare words from Pellew
infinitely more significant than a lengthy speech from
any other man. "Are you certain?"

"Certain sure," Horatio answered with a smile. "I was
next to him on the quarter-deck when he said it. Mr.
Bracegirdle heard it, as well."

Lucy thought the compliment rather inadequate for what
the shot had apparently accomplished, but could see it
meant the world to Archie, and so kept silent. She
found herself trying to reconcile the young man who
had quoted poetry to her last night and blushed and
stammered so sweetly with the one who took such
evident pride in his deadly skill.

It was clear she had much to learn about this young
man, and his world. And she was determined to do just
that...

"Ah, Lucy, Elisabeth, there you are!" Addington called
jovially as he and Pellew re-joined them. "Mr.
Hornblower, Mr. Kennedy, again I owe you my thanks.
While I have quite enjoyed prowling the depths of the
ship, I know my daughters would have been hopelessly
bored. I appreciate your keeping them entertained
while an old man indulged himself."

"It was our pleasure, sir," Archie said with a
side-glance at Lucy.

Pellew noted the glance, and turned to Horatio,
arching a dark brow slightly. "Well, Mr. Hornblower, I
trust no one fell overboard or got tangled in the
rigging?"

Horatio knew his captain was not referring to the
girls, and allowed himself a slight smile. "There were
no accidents, and no casualties, sir," he reported
amiably.

"Good." He turned that keen dark gaze upon Kennedy.
"And no more guns crashing through the sides of my
ship?"

Archie blushed scarlet and swallowed hard. "Sir, I-- I
am sorry, but--"

"Yes, I know," Pellew said, holding up a hand to
forestall the young man's words, his own tone and gaze
softening, "she would not be gotten out any other
way." He turned to Addington to offer an explanation.
"We lost our number four gun in our most recent
engagement. A French ball struck her, killed her crew.
Mr. Kennedy and his crew spent all morning trying to
pry what was left out of the deck. Frankly," he
inclined his head slightly, "they did far better than
I had anticipated. I expected the damned thing --
pardon me, ladies -- to go crashing through the decks
before we ever reached port. Mr. Kennedy and his men
did a fine job in keeping her secured until they could
remove her."

Archie's mouth fell open at the unexpected praise, and
he stared at his captain in shock. True, his men had
worked diligently to keep her in place, had stood
constant watch upon her, and had damned near ruptured
themselves finally to get her over the side. He had
congratulated the men on a job very well done, and had
mentioned them each by name to Mr. Bracegirdle. Yet
never had he expected to hear their -- and his --
efforts lauded by the captain.

And from the way Horatio and Lucy were smiling at him,
he knew he had not imagined it...

"Captain Pellew," Addington said into the silence, "I
believe my daughters and I have taken up quite enough
of your time. You have been more than generous, more
than hospitable, and I am most appreciative. Yet I
know you and your crew still have a great amount of
work to do, and we will keep you no longer. And I
apologize for any inconvenience we have caused you."

"Not at all, Sir Robert, not at all," Pellew assured
him. "I am always eager to show off my ship and crew.
As I told you before, I am exceedingly proud of them.
Perhaps more so than is considered dignified for a
captain."

"Yes, well, if what I have seen so far is any
indication, then, Sir Edward, you have ample reason
for your pride, and dignity be damned! But now, we
must go. I merely wanted to express my gratitude once
more for what your young men did last night." His eyes
gleamed. "I never imagined I should have the privilege
of seeing one of His Majesty's fine ships in such
detail! You have made my day, Sir Edward, and I thank
you for it." He winked. "I fear I shall never be able
to look upon one of my lumbering Indiamen with true
affection ever again!"

Pellew laughed delightedly. "A frigate will have that
effect, Sir Robert. Once you have fallen in love with
a frigate, no other ship will do."
**********

On the main deck, Pellew and his officers stood ready
to bid farewell to their guests. Again the swing was
rigged for Lucy and Elisabeth, and, fore and aft, the
men who should have been working managed to sidle
close enough to get a last look at the two girls whose
beauty had made a rare intrusion into their rough
world.

Very properly, even somewhat shyly, the girls
curtseyed to Captain Pellew and thanked him for the
courtesy of his ship. He bowed gallantly and assured
them the pleasure had been his. Elisabeth then went
first to Horatio, and next to Archie, curtseying to
each and smiling sweetly, expressing her heartfelt
appreciation for their kindness of both yesterday and
today. Lucy went behind her sister, curtseying and
smiling at Hornblower. But it was only when she
stopped before Kennedy that her brown eyes took on
their brightest sheen and her smile its sweetest
radiance. In that moment, more than one man aboard
Indefatigable lost his heart to the lovely girl.

"Mr. Kennedy, I cannot thank you enough," she said
softly, gazing into his bruised face and only barely
resisting the urge to reach up and brush the hair out
of his eyes. "You have been so kind, in so many ways.
And I pray we shall meet again before you sail."

"I do hope so, Miss Addington," he breathed, again
losing himself in her gaze. "And I am-- very glad--
you came out this morning. I was worried-- I mean, I--
I hoped-- you had suffered no ill effects from
yesterday."

She gazed down at his bandaged hand, then took it
gently between her two. "Oh, no," she breathed,
raising her gaze once more to his. "I believe you and
Mr. Hornblower suffered enough for Elisabeth and
myself, as well. Does it hurt terribly?"

At this moment, an anchor could have fallen on his
hand, and he would not have felt it. "Not at all," he
breathed.

"Lucy!" Sir Robert called. "I am certain Mr. Kennedy
has duties awaiting him. We have imposed enough upon
Captain Pellew's time and hospitality."

"Coming, Papa," she answered distractedly, her eyes
never leaving Kennedy's. In a much softer voice, she
breathed, "Never fear, Archie, even if I can't see you
for a while, I shall not forget you. I shall write to
you, if nothing else. Indeed," she blushed prettily
and reached into her small bag, pulling out an
envelope, "I have already done so."

He took the letter from her and, without thinking,
laid his hand over hers. "I shall read it the first
chance I get, I swear it!" His heart was pounding and
his breath was failing. As he slipped the letter into
his jacket, he could smell her perfume clinging to it
and felt suddenly dizzy.

"LUCY!"

"I must go-- Good-bye, Mr. Kennedy. And-- promise me
you will be careful?" When he whispered his promise,
she rose onto the tips of her toes and pressed a kiss
to his cheek, then turned and hurried to her father
and sister.

Behind her, Acting-Lieutenant Kennedy, eyes wide and
mouth open, raised a hand to his cheek, where her kiss
still burned, and felt as if his heart might explode
like the number four gun.

Noting the young man's glazed eyes and idiotic
expression, Pellew sighed and shook his head, then
turned, frowning, to Hornblower. "Remember," he
ordered grimly, "don't let him fall overboard! And see
if he intends to return to earth -- and to duty -- any
time soon."

"Aye aye, sir," Horatio answered, barely suppressing a
grin. "I'll see he doesn't hurt himself or anyone
else."

"Or my ship!" Pellew added. "And, for God's sake," he
growled, "get him to close his mouth!"
**********