A Letter to the Departed
by Ashley

Archie,

Oh, my friend. I cannot believe I am resorting to this. Many acquaintances
and doctors, including Doctor Clive, have mentioned the virtues of writing
to a friend or loved one lost, to ease one's conscience. But I do this for
you as much as for me.

I know you will never truly read this, but in my heart I don't care. It's
enough to know that I put down on paper the thoughts that I will never share
with anyone, especially the one person I should have told.

You were always a true friend, Archie. From the moment I came aboard the
Justinian, you showed me kindness I did not expect to find among more than
700 strangers.

What you and Clayton did for me was infinitely admirable, and I shall never
forget it.

I will never forget your kindness during the time we spent in France.
Mariette's loss was a hard one for me. I know I was young, and our Mr. Bush
would say I was too young to understand the concept of love. But as kind as
he is, and as well meaning, only you knew just how I felt. And you knew
what to say and what to do.

You consistantly showed me the meaning of true friendship, and I aspire to
repay it by being the best man I can be.

I realize that emotion, to me, is an untested water. I tend to lean toward
the reserved; a fault perhaps due to the way I was raised. Losing my mother
was a thing my father never got over, and I dare say I learned from him
quickly the way a proper gentleman should behave.

Well, Archie, it appears that I have become a proper gentleman. Captain
Hornblower; can you believe it? It tries my tongue to even say it, even
though Commodore Pellew assures me it will come easier with time. My ship
is the Hotspur, a small recommissioned French frigate. She is not the Indy,
nor even the Renown, but she is mine. And Mr. Bush, whom I happened to run
into in Portsmouth, is my first Lieutenant. He is a wonder, and a most
excellent friend and confidante for a new captain.

Other things have changed as well.

I am also a husband.

And soon to be a father.

Unbelievable. Me, a father.

Who is the lucky girl you would ask?

Don't count her so lucky.

Her name is Maria. She is the daughter of my former landlady, who is a
right old-

Well, let us just say she's not the most ladylike of ladies.

An interesting situation I've fallen into, Archie.

Maria is a kind, gentle, sweet, loyal woman. She helped me immensely in a
time of need, and I felt the obligation, nay, the duty to help her.

Unfortunately - the only the aid I could properly lend was a ring on her
finger, and my last name. The poor woman would accept nothing else, and
thinking on it, I fear I have damaged her sense of decorum. You were ever
the better man at understanding the fairer sex, Archie. I feel you would
never have found yourself in such a situation.

I wish I could love her, as I know she loves me. She is completely devoted
to me, the best kind of wife any man could wish for. A perfect Captain's
wife. I should be proud to have her on my arm at any function, and I know
she would behave in a manner befitting a lady of her station.

But God forgive me, Archie, I don't love her. Not as she wishes, or
deserves. She is a good friend, and trustworthy and everything I ought to
want.

I know I'm not one to be passionate. But I love my life at sea. I would
die without it. It is everything to me, as are the men that serve under me.
As were you.

How can I be a better husband, a good father? I wish I knew. I promised
Maria I would be just that - and I don't know how to do it.

I should have told you so long ago, just how important you were to me. I
sat at your deathbed, dry eyed. And you smiled at me, even at the end.

You smiled, and I couldn't even take your hand as you left me.

You took a sentence that was to be mine, and by doing so, allowed me to live
a life I can be proud of.

As I told Commodore Pellew that day, I will never forget your name, or what
you did for me.

I can be seen to be stiff and unyielding on the outside, however I would
hope to be seen also as understanding and loyal to my crew, and they to me.

But some nights, when I lie next to Maria, or by myself in my bunk aboard
the Hotspur, I allow myself to think of all the things we went through
together, and how I should have shown you the affection I held in my heart
for you.

I have never been one for open emotion - but I should have been the day you
died.

I miss you, my dear friend.

I wish to all the Heavens you were here to help me with the events of my
life as of late.

I try to be a good man, an honest Captain, and a good leader.

I cannot help but think that I would be better at all of those things were
you still alive, and in my life.

Ah - Mr. Bush calls - I must answer my duty.

I remain truly yours,

Horatio

 

Fin.