Horatio's Diary, part one
by Lft. Michele

 

Yesterday, the afternoon sun saw me out of the hole in the earth. I say it
in those terms because I myself saw very little, that stranger in the sky
having temporarily dazzled my sight. How I stood in those first few
moments of relative freedom is quite beyond this humble seaman's
comprehension, save my own scarcely surviving pride and determination.
I could see the overwhelming relief in Archie's eyes; my friend and
brother in this ordeal positively giddy at the sight of me. And what a
sight I must have been! But I shall address that at a later time, my arm
being still sufficiently cramped as to limit my writings for today.
Returning to the former subject, it should be noted that even Mr. Hunter's
relief was apparent, though tinged with easing remorse.

Nonetheless, the two of them have been taking fine care of me, as I begin
my recovery. All pride aside, I thank Providence, no less my Maker, for
the relative shortness of my time in the oubliette: If the effects of
being so cramped have taken such a toll on my body, I shudder to imagine
what Archie endured, even the length and loneliness of his recovery time.
There is no ceasing of my amazement at my ability to walk even a few
steps, albeit with a great deal of stiffness and aching, and an almost
equal portion of accompanying groaning. Had I the authority to do so (and
perhaps I do), I would surely suggest a hero's commendation for Archie,
for his alertness and his swiftness of action in catching me on my return
to the cell....

Subsequently, both he and Hunter have seen to my every physical need,
fetching my victuals and my water, assisting me from my bed in the
morning, and even...aiding me in rituals of personal care which I had
always taken for granted....

Most humbling indeed.......

Just as important, and in a way MORE so, my compatriots have seen as well
to my emotional and spiritual well-being. Even Mr. Hunter has joined
Archie and me in morning prayers of thanksgiving and evening supplications
petitioning the Almighty for our safe deliverance from this place, and,
until such time, our patience and endurance and faith that we will indeed
see our ship before war's end...

Archie has especially looked after me, might I add most solicitously,
sometimes watching me for long moments, presumably for signs of infirmity
or other ill effect. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for
him, when he was released from solitude, INTO solitude, with no one to see
to his needs. That he sank into utter despair is indeed of little
wonder....

I grow now again fatigued, the cramp in my arm once more crescendoeing to
a scream which demands relief. It is therefore with hope and thanksgiving
that I commit these few words to paper, and that I lie my weary head upon
a hard, uneven, but most welcome surface, to sleep, perchance to dream --
of home and freedom....

Dated this day 14 September, 1794, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

*****************************


I am uncertain as to how I was able to rise from my bed this morning, save
the unfailing assistance of my comrades; but am grateful at the slight
lessening of difficulty in such an action this day. It was indeed a more
arduous task yesterday just to swing my legs round to the floor, though I
fear that supporting myself alone is still a goal for the future (I live
in
hope, the NEAR future....).

We have all, however, dressed and washed as best we can under the austere
circumstances. This we do for little other reason than to maintain our
self-respect, no small accomplishment when every day serves no other
purpose than to wait....

I have once more begun reading from Don Quixote, with the aid of the
sizeable lexicon provided by our "host." I was pleased to learn from the
introduction that, like myself, Senor Cervantes was the son of a
physician, and comforted to know that he too was held prisoner by the
enemy... I am indeed finding ways in which Don Quixote as well bears
resemblance to myself, not least of all owing to my love of books. As
Archie misses the theatre and Hunter misses the action of being aboard
ship, I lament deeply the lack of variety in reading material, most
notably classics of Homer, Shakespeare, and Chaucer, and educational
tomes; but at the same time I am indescribably grateful for the volume we
DO possess, for without it I fear our minds would turn numb...

A curious thing happened today: Don Massaredo, presumably out of respect
for Archie's endurance and loyalty, has offered Kennedy the walks that I
was
allowed, when I was physically able. I expected his heart would have leapt
for joy and his person scrambled quickly from the cell at such an
opportunity. But Archie has, I might add very graciously and with deepest
respect and gratitude, requested of the commandant that he might reserve
such privilege for a time when I am able to accompany him. I regret I was
not witness to the exchange, as Archie had been called away for the
meeting in our host's dining room, but I am told that Don Massaredo raised
his eyebrow in characteristic fashion, bowed his head, and remarked that
he had never observed such loyalty and strength in all his years in the
service....

I must say, neither have I....

I look forward with great anticipation to the day when the three of us
will be accorded such privilege, though I doubt we will all be permitted
to go at the same time... While Hunter has behaved himself surprisingly
well since my return to the cell two days ago, I harbour a strong
suspicion that Don
Massaredo is well aware of who truly DID lead the failed insurrection...

We shall return for now to tales of our fictional Knight Errant... Would
that Don Quixote were to take up OUR cause and free us from the giants and
evil knights that surround us....

Dated this day, 15 September, 1794, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.



********************

Rising from my bed was not as difficult and painful a task this morning,
thankfully. However, I did still require Archie's assistance, as well as
his aid in dressing. Were he not as a caring brother to me, I fear my
pride would be all but destroyed. Three days now have passed since my
release from the hole in the earth that almost broke him. "What sort of a
midshipman is that?" Mr. Hunter's words still ring in my ears... "The BEST
sort," can be the only response....

I had held out hope that I would be able to walk on my own this morning,
but persistent stiffness and now cramping in my lower legs would not allow
that. I vow to make another attempt this evening.

In all fairness to Mr. Hunter, his attitude has improved vastly. His
concern for me is great, and, I am not ashamed to say, touches me deeply.
I believe that if he continues on this tack, he will be an asset to
Indefatigable.

If we are ever to return....

No... no, I must not allow myself to entertain that manner of thought... I
am responsible for all of us, and despite my present condition I must set
an example for the men...

My Spanish seems to be improving. It MUST, or I fear the adventures of Don
Quixote will elude us. Archie's Spanish is sufficient to translate the
more basic vocabulary, as well as sentence structure (similar to French)
and common expressions. But we must consult the lexicon for most words,
and it is at times slow and frustrating work. We do, however, HAVE the
time...

But what makes it most difficult is the sense that I almost loathe the
language... It's strange, I do not feel the same loathing for the French
tongue, though they too are our enemies. As an officer, I cannot blame Don
Massaredo for needing to maintain discipline -- any military man would be
required to do the same... And, judging by some of the dreadful tales I
have heard, he is a relatively fair and tolerant captor. But it is
difficult to be surrounded always by the sound of a foreign tongue, far
from home and safety, and to recall what has been done to us and what has
been taken from us... (When I think of what they did to Archie....) To be
forced to embrace this language, which one must do in order to learn it,
does indeed test my limits and strength of will as much as does anything
we have been forced to endure...

My hunger is growing, and the number of chimes tolling tells me we may
soon receive our next meal... I do believe that the food has improved
somewhat since my return to the cell, for which I am most grateful. I hope
that it will strengthen me in order that I may carry on as I must....

Dated this day, 16 September, 1794, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.



*************


It is night now, of the same day as last I took pen to page.... the
time of day that is most difficult... When the entire day passes by,
and nothing is accomplished, no new hope seen, and another day of our
lives gone for naught, it becomes difficult to see past our
circumstances. It is then that I realise how alone I am, despite the
physical presence of Archie and Hunter....

The fact that I was able to walk some (albeit with stiffness and
difficulty) around the cell this evening heartened me for a time, and
we shared some fine conversation later. But when it is dark, and my
companions are asleep, I am alone with my thoughts, and am reminded
of my responsibility, my fault, my blame in landing them here...
Whilst I am grateful for their company and for their assistance, even
their caring, I know that they cannot understand the burden I bear,
the fears in my heart, or the relentless guilt that plagues my
soul....

I have heard some talk of possibly being allowed out for walks within
a few days' time... It seems Don Massaredo was concerned about
letting out more than one of us at a time, but he knows that I cannot
walk any distance without aid, and will probably allow Archie to
accompany me... I hope this will come to pass, for my restlessness is
beginning to rival that of Hunter. I fear that if I do not breathe
fresh air, or stand again upon the threshold of the sea, I may lose
my sensibilities...

I pray that things will seem brighter in the morning, for this night
is strangely difficult to bear....

Dated once more this day, 16 September, 1794, and signed, Horatio
Hornblower, Acting Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.


*******************************

We were greatly heartened to receive a letter from Miss Cobham this
morning. (Of course, for the sake of possible prying eyes, we kept up
the deception of her "acquired" identity...) Somehow, just hearing
from her conjured up for us images of home and security... Her
presence had somehow softened the starkness of this place, and made
it a little more bearable... I was deeply moved by the light in
Archie's eyes as I opened the surprisingly still-sealed letter and
told him and Hunter from whose hand this little treasure had come to
us...

Oh dear... I regret that I have been so preoccupied with my own slow
recovery that I have failed to comment on Mr. Hunter's progress...
His leg has indeed improved, almost miraculously, though his limp is
still very evident. Archie and I, one afternoon as Hunter slept, have
remarked to each other the change in him and have marvelled at his
newly quiet demeanour.

We all converse quite a bit, as one might expect, as there is little
else with which we can keep ourselves occupied. Hunter has told us
something of his youth, a very difficult time indeed, having been
abandoned as he was and passed from relative to relative, before
finally setting out on his own at age 11... Despite his former
cruelty toward Archie, and his insubordination toward myself, we have
found in our hearts a new understanding of him... I would not go so
far as to regard him a friend as yet, but it is not as uncomfortable
a situation here in these tight quarters as it HAD been....

I am pleased to report that I no longer required Archie's assistance
in tending to my personal care this morning, and that I have been
able to walk around the cell on my own today for a few more steps
than my attempt of last evening. Archie and I have been promised a
short walk outside tomorrow. Hunter has been outside for a time each
day since yesterday, but only by himself, and under close guard,
serving to confirm my suspicions that Don Massaredo does indeed know
who planned the escape attempt... But that is neither here nor there.
As I had mentioned, Archie has been graciously declining offers to go
outside until such time as I would be able to take care of myself, so
we are both anxiously anticipating tomorrow's outing, however short
it may be....

During this morning's reading of Don Quixote, a mischievous
expression suddenly crossed Archie's face, and he began teasing
Hunter about his "command" of the Spanish language. "Por favor, he's
seek, help him queek!" Archie taunted, and Hunter surprisingly
managed a self-effacing grin from what started out as a grimace.
Before long the three of us were laughing as though we hadn't a care
in the world. I suppose this proves the adage I had heard, "It
matters not where as much as who...."

Whoever authored that proverb had never, apparently, experienced
Spanish hospitality....

Nonetheless, the discouragement that plagued me last night has
lessened, though I am uncertain whether it is owing to my tired
state... I may simply be too exhausted to give our situation that
much thought. In any case, our situation does remain the same, and at
this point I can only look forward to brief moments of respite, such
as a kind word, a strong handshake, or a walk in the sun, to make our
state more bearable....

Dated this day, 17 September, 1794, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Acting Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.


**********************************

A cool breeze began blowing into the cell window this morning. It
would seem autumn is upon us. Hunter and I found it quite blessedly
refreshing. Archie, however, has since been complaining of feeling
chilled. Hunter, who seems always to feel warm more than any of us,
surprised us all by lending him his blanket until such time as we
have opportunity to request another. I feel no shame in admitting my
concern for Archie, for I have seen the fits set off in him by little
other than a good chill and lack of proper sleep...

He invariably answers my wordless expressions of concern with a
reassuring smile and a returned concern for my own well-being...

We have been promised our walk shortly; I am relieved that it is the
middle of the day, when the sun is warmest... It will do us good....

As to other affairs, our reading has progressed well for today. My
Spanish vocabulary is increasing, and I find Archie as fine a tutor
as I could have hoped for. Mr. Hunter sometimes joins us at lesson
time, though he seems more interested in the diversion of the story
itself. He is, however, having a bit of difficulty in understanding
our Knight Errant.

Breakfast this morning was -- oh, there is the guard, I will write
more after we have returned from our walk... must remember about that
blanket....

18 September, 1794, Horatio Hornblower, Acting Lt.


**********************************

I regret my failure to continue these journal entries in a timely
fashion. I had intended to complete yesterday's thoughts following
our first walk in the sun since my release from the oubliette, but I
am afraid the eagerly anticipated outing did not go as planned...

I shall therefore endeavour to relate now the events of yesterday
afternoon...

Four guards had come to escort Archie and me from the cell, weapons
at the ready. I was moved to see the excitement on Archie's weary
face as the door opened, allowing us outside the confines of this
cell for the first time since before the escape attempt. We both
looked back at Hunter, who nodded that he would be all right by
himself, and then Archie came to my bedside to help me up. Since I
had already been able to walk a little in the cell, I needed only to
lean on him, our arms around each other's shoulders, as we took our
first steps through the doorway...

With a pair of guards before us, and the two larger ones behind us,
we slowly made our way down the cool, stuccoed corridor toward the
sunshine. I do not exaggerate when I say slowly, for the process was
nothing short of painful, and one of the guards bringing up the rear
began to appear rather impatient. I saw Archie's excitement turn to
fear as he noticed this as well. Nonetheless, we pressed determinedly
on, the warm sunshine and relative freedom our goals...

Perhaps two hours later (aye, I DO exaggerate now... in reality it
could not have been more than five or ten minutes), Archie and I
finally stepped into the sunlight. Our shoulders were aching, and the
muscles of my face tense and tired from wincing, but the warmth of
the sun on our tired bodies was a priceless and inestimable reward.
For a moment we both felt invincible, almost like the feeling we used
to get standing on the quarterdeck of the Indy...

We started along the perimeter of the covered walkway, so that the
rough benches kept there would be close to hand in the event I might
require a moment's rest. All was well, and we looked at each other
with smiles that were so broad they felt strange to us. It was not
long before Archie insisted I sit for a time, and I must admit I
gladly obliged. Our four Spanish friends remained in the yard with
us, but with their comrades in usual position along the walls, they
did not feel the need to stand as close. For a time, by comparison to
recent days, we almost felt free....

I finally convinced Archie to allow me to attempt a few steps on my
own. After all, I argued, I HAD walked around the cell without
assistance; I therefore saw no reason I could not do as well here in
the warm sunshine. Besides that fact, I noted with some alarm the
weariness returning to Archie's young features, and I had no wish to
burden him further by requiring him to hold up a grown man who should
have been perfectly capable of supporting himself. He helped me to my
feet, I leaned upon the table's edge, and Archie finally let go of my
arm. It was with immeasurable pride that I moved first one leg, then
the other, then removed my hand from the table, and then stepped out
from the shade and into the fullness of the afternoon sunshine....

My joy and hope were taken from me in one very short moment as my
left leg suddenly cramped, sending shivers of excruciating pain all
the way up to my back, making my heart pound, and taking the breath
from my lungs. Before I realised what was happening, I was on the
ground, my pride as much in the dust as my hands, extended to break
my fall; and the pain in my body rivalled only by the pain in my
soul, the pain of failure and disappointment....

As Archie rushed to my side, his face pale with concern, all I could
think to do was to curse my own weakness and pride, the latter having
caused me to force myself too soon to do what I was not yet ready to
do, but more than that, to perhaps discourage the men by letting them
see my failure...

One of the guards, a sympathetic-looking young man of no more than
18, assisted Archie in helping me back to the cell. No words were
spoken on the way back, but Archie and I both knew each other's
thoughts. Just before the cell door was opened for us, Archie
strengthened me with a look of determination that was contagious, and
I knew that he intended I be strong for the benefit of Mr. Hunter. No
doubt Hunter had observed what had happened, as had undoubtedly the
men, but Archie knew that I could show neither weakness nor
discouragement, for their sake as well as for my own; for Archie knew
better than anyone how quickly and easily a man can sink into despair
when he is not allowed even to be a man....

I must rest now... Perhaps I can make another attempt in a day or so,
if the cramping will have subsided by that time... I have strength
sufficient at the moment only to say that I do not know how Archie
endured in this dreadful place alone for so long a time...

Dated this day, 19 September, 1794, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Acting Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.


**********************************

I regret again having neglected my writing... My only excuse is the
shameful discouragement which I have allowed to take hold of me...
Despite Archie's persistent urging, I fear I have let an entire day
pass doing nothing other than giving in to exhaustion and
negativity...and self-pity... It is the last of these three for which
I feel the most shame, for an officer in his majesty's navy, and
CERTAINLY one in command in such dire circumstances, has no right to
such a luxury... I know that Captain Pellew would never have allowed
himself to sink to such depths, no MATTER the circumstances....

I do not know if perhaps I left this bloody Don ink uncorked for a
time (it was tightly closed when again I took it up this evening...
perhaps Archie or Hunter saw to it....), but it would appear this
inferior substance is giving me difficulty now, smearing, uneven
distribution, and now this quill as well has joined in the
conspiracy... I know even less what has become of the latter; perhaps
the rats have gotten to it... I know that I should consider myself
fortunate indeed that the Dons have even ALLOWED me such luxuries
(Don Massaredo himself knew that I was a man of letters and needed to
keep myself thus occupied....), but I am not ashamed to admit that I
do so miss the superior English writing accoutrements to which I am
accustomed... -#~ Blast! There it goes again... This constant
appearing of strange and malformed characters is, I fear, going to
make this journal appear the work of an illiterate.... I shall
continue to do my best with it, however...

I believe one of the things which is getting to me at the moment is
the dreadful lack of privacy here... I do not mean to say that I
would wish to return to the solitude of the hole in the earth. It
WOULD, however~^, (there goes that bloody quill again!) help matters
were I able to engage in those long walks which I had formerly
enjoyed, so as to clear my thoughts, to make plans, and to refresh my
soul in peace.... (I fear that my hopes for such long walks at any
time soon in coming are waning, but I also now know that I must
persevere in my exercise, however slow it may progress....) I am, of
course, indescribably fortunate to have Archie with me, for I do not
know, especially in the past few days, what I would have done without
him; and I am even grateful for Hunter's presence, for he keeps
things interesting and adds a bit of pepper to the mix now and
again....

But Captain Keene's reading of my father's letter rings in my ears,
that I am "a solitary boy...." That was, perhaps, truer in my early
days in his majesty's navy, but my time alone is still precious to
me, and even more so here, in this place where all of a man's dignity
has been stripped away from him... Petulant though I may sound, I do
not like having to answer to anyone who is not a superior officer,
for that is my duty and even my honour and privilege... However, it
becomes increasingly difficult and troublesome to do the guards'
bidding, to know that they look in on us at any such time as they
please, and to know that we lack even privacy sufficient to tend to
the most personal of tasks....

At the moment, my greatest hope is that one day I might have one hour
to myself... just one hour, to recall the sweet freedom of the past,
to collect my thoughts in order to accept our present conditions
until such time as we can regain our liberty, and to hope for the
future, to convince myself for the sake of my men and myself that
there will BE a future, and a future sooner than the end of the
war.... There are wars of more than a decade's duration, and I fear
imprisonment for such a length of time should be more than we could
bear... No... no, I shall not think of that... Once I am again able
to roam the coastline and the beach, with the clear blue sky over my
head, I shall be more apt to consider the future in a positive
light...

For the present, it is late, and I already tax this quill and the
small candle which is our only source of light... I curse my
selfishness and vanity at my recent fall, for more than any other
reason that it caused me to forget to request another blanket for
Archie, who is again shivering in the cool night... Hunter, warmed
only by his long jacket, has once more given Archie his blanket,
putting aside even the pain in his leg, however improved it is... I
have promised Archie that I will see to it in the morning, and he
simply forced a smile and bade me not give it another thought, to
rest and regain my strength....

I cannot argue with a fellow officer... especially when my eyes are
closing....

Dated this day, 21 September 179){-` (Blast! This bloody
quill....'[`} ), and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting Lieutenant,
HMS IndefatiGable.[-#-`




*******************

Archie yelled at me this morning. Not terribly loudly, but firmly,
certain sure. After my failure of two days ago (was it two days? I am
having difficulty recalling...) and my despair of yesterday, I fear I
had set my mind to not making even an attempt to rise this morning,
and had in the back of my thoughts a fancy to continue in like manner
until such time as it would no longer matter... Archie, however,
recognised at once the tack my ship was on and decided with a firm
certainty to alter this course with all haste.

He subsequently enlisted Hunter's aid in practically dragging me from
my bed, almost tossing the wash water in my face, and tying up my
queue in as neat a fashion as could be managed here. I resisted at
first even putting on my jacket, not seeing much point in dressing in
full uniform to do little more than lodge in our humble quarters, but
Archie again insisted, pulling my arms through the sleeves, which
again proved to be a painful experience, albeit with difficulty
lessening by the day...

I imagine he would know best, as I do recall the improvement in his
attitude the first day since our arrival that he dressed properly...

Archie has also informed me that we are to once more venture outside
today. When I asked how he arrived at such orders, he answered quite
positively that they were HIS orders and I, seeing his demeanour,
decided in these circumstances to ignore the fact that I outrank
him....

So, after our midday meal, I shall again be obliged to obey my
superior's orders....

Breakfast was, I must admit, most welcome, as it arrived late, and by
the time it did finally reach us, we were more than ready for it. I
am ashamed to admit, however, such was my pit of despondency at the
time, that it did not occur to me to ask the guard for that extra
blanket for Archie; but he DID, bless him, after a moment's hesitant
glance to me, almost as though he feared that addressing the guard
directly might appear he was presuming to command. He had the
presence of mind to notice that this morning's visitor was that young
guard who had assisted me back to the cell following our last outing,
the one who had regarded me with such solicitude. The young soldier
was most pleased to hear Archie address him in Spanish, and responded
in kind (so Archie told me) that he would certainly make the request
known to his superiors.

Again I grow fatigued, and I know I must reserve what little strength
I have regained for the attempt at walking which I must make this
afternoon. I will close for the moment, to rest for a time, pleased
that my quill has behaved itself thus far today, and, providing I
survive said attempt at the hands of so relentless a taskmaster, I
shall set down the day's further events at a later time.

Dated this day, 22 Sep#mb+~r, 17o)<^ (Blast! Not again!)}-[ and
signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting Lieuten`nt~, HMS Indefatigable


*****************************


How is it that I have let the entire day pass, and here I sit,
commencing only now to write of yesterday afternoon's events? Perhaps
it was the exertion, the excitement, or the resulting tiredness that
has caused my delay...

Archie has informed me that I do indeed have the correct date in mind
to affix to this journal entry; as I recall, my thoughts were a bit
clouded on this point as of yesterday's writing. (That is, IF my
quill cooperates this evening... Its apparently conspiracy with this
ink EVERY time I need to date an entry seems so complete that I am
seriously contemplating OMITTING the dates...) For some reason, the
date 23 September seems to carry with it a special significance....
ah yes, if I am not mistaken, I believe it is the birth date of one
of my favourite composers... Certainly, being tone-deaf I cannot
fully appreciate his work; however, his philosophy and legendary
mathematical precision hold great fascination and appeal for me... I
find myself wishing that appreciation for music could be taught, for
surely Archie could tutor me in its finer points as well as he does
with the Spanish language....

But I digress. I must relate the happenings surrounding yesterday's
attempt at our walk in the sun. With our midday meal, our "friend,"
the young guard brought the extra blanket Archie had requested, with,
much to our surprise and delight, two others! Archie thanked him
sincerely, in Spanish, which the young soldier clearly appreciated,
judging by his warm smile, something rarely seen here. The guard
remained just outside the locked door whilst we dined, as he had
orders, as had been prearranged, to allow us out for our walk
immediately afterward.

Following the simple meal, Archie looked at me sternly, as he did not
want me to renege on my promise to try again; and before I had
opportunity to argue, he and Hunter were one on each side of me,
supporting me until our young friend had again opened the door.
Hunter, knowing he must wait for his exercise time, wished us well,
and through the doorway we started, Archie insisting that I lean on
him until I could get my bearings.

The young guard had three fellow soldiers waiting for us outside the
door, as was customary, and again they escorted us toward the
courtyard. The journey down the corridor seemed a bit shorter this
time, which encouraged me from the start. When I saw the sunshine, I
could not help but withdraw a little, squinting against the
brightness of the afternoon, but I soon recovered myself and bade
Archie allow me to attempt a few steps on my own. He opened his mouth
in protest, but confidently I replied with the same expression which
had him drinking that first cup of the water in the sickroom some
weeks before, and he knew at once that his argument was lost before
it had begun.

As my brother officer watched breathlessly, I took first one step,
holding onto a nearby table, then another, a bit less haltingly, and
then a third, with which I let go the table. On beginning my fourth
step, I took a deep breath, argued for a moment with myself, and then
continued for a fifth, sixth, seventh step, and then finally,
establishing my own awkward yet effective rhythm, made my way for the
first time (in far too long) across the yard to the opposite covered
walkway! Archie, unashamed of the tears in his eyes, ran to my side
just in time, as I could not hold myself up a moment longer, and kept
me from falling, at once clapping me on the back as gently as he
could, given his excitement. At the same time, a call for three
cheers went up from across the courtyard; raising a hand to shield my
eyes from the sun, I could see the men gathered at their window,
congratulating me, and themselves clearly encouraged by my relative
success. From our own cell I could hear "Fine goin', sir!" from Mr.
Hunter, the sound of which actually surprised me....

I believe I may even have detected some excited whispers from one or
two of the guards....

At this time, Archie helped me to the nearest table and we sat for a
time, talking and enjoying the fresh air. Well rested, we walked the
length of the courtyard once more, most of that time without him
supporting me; and yet again, this time with me able to make the
journey unassisted. Overflowing with pride and a sense of
accomplishment and hope, I did not even mind when the guards informed
us that it was time to return to our cell....

Hunter welcomed us back, shaking our hands warmly, and we three
talked and rested for a time, until it was time for his walk. At that
time, Hunter arose stiffly, eagerly following the guards out to the
courtyard. Archie and I watched him making his way round the yard,
his leg still clearly painful and his hand moving to it frequently,
but it was also evident that he was enjoying the exercise. The guards
allowed him extra time, presumably because he did need to work the
leg to aid in his recovery.

I must say that despite Hunter's recent improvement in attitude and
even friendliness and concern toward us, we WERE thankful for the
chance to speak privately (which conversation I shall relate in my
next entry) and I was grateful for a bit of privacy to collect my own
thoughts when Archie suddenly fell into an exhausted sleep. I had
forgotten what it was like, simply lying in bed in silence, not being
watched, not being guarded (the door was locked, and the guards were
with Hunter), and not being worried about.

That rare and beautiful sensation, and the sense of accomplishment
attained from my ability to walk on my own for more than a few steps,
has strengthened my resolve and fortified my once waning hope
immeasurably.... For now, however, it is late and I must rest...
There will be much to write about on the morrow....

Dated this day, 23 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

*************************************

Yesterday was the first day since my release from the hole in the
earth when I did not feel the need to write. I do admit to some
degree of shame, however, as I had committed to keeping this journal,
and I fear I have neglected it, for whatever reason. That reason
being, that I felt more encouraged yesterday, my success in the
courtyard so fresh in mind, and did not feel the need to unburden
myself of dark thoughts in writing. I shall attempt to remedy the gap
in narrative today.

Archie and I were allowed out for another walk yesterday, only just
in the yard again, but with at least as much success as I enjoyed the
previous day. The warm afternoon sunshine did us both a world of
good, I suspect even more for Archie than for myself, for the cold at
night is beginning to become troublesome for him.

On that subject, we are quite grateful for the extra blankets which
our young Spanish friend had brought to us. Mr. Hunter requires only
one, and I one at this time, and we had had three to begin (poor
though they were), so Archie is now using two at night. I am afraid
that my concern for him is preventing me from sleeping through the
night; I find myself watching him to make certain he is all right and
remains untroubled by fits. Last night I got up to cover him with a
third blanket; I thought I saw him shivering in the moonlight. If he
knew I was not sleeping, he would become cross with me and firmly
inform me that I need my rest, in order to fully recover.

I had not realised what the effects of an uncovered window might be,
coupled especially with the dampness here. I still hold out hope that
the climate here will not allow a very cold winter...

Back now to the promised treatise regarding our conversation of two
days ago, when Hunter was outside for his exercise. (His leg,
incidentally, is improving by the day, and he is encouraged.) After
Hunter had left the cell, Archie and I had sat down upon our beds (I
was more lying down than sitting), facing each other. I was still
perspiring from the exertion and effort of my walk, but Archie
appeared to be just comfortable, the sun, as I have said, doing him
good. We talked first of my progress, my friend being quite proud of
me, and I thanked him for his assistance and patience.

The conversation turned next to Hunter, Archie giving me further
details on Hunter's deportment during my time in the hole. Even with
Archie's urging, Hunter did not eat much during that time, and Archie
became concerned that lack of nourishment might slow Hunter's
recovery. He had informed Hunter that he himself knew of whence he
spoke, and that as ranking officer in the cell it was his prerogative
to order him, but that he did not want to resort to that. So it was
that Hunter reluctantly agreed to finish the small, simple, half-
ration meals provided during that time of punishment.

It was at this juncture in the conversation that Archie looked me
directly in the eyes, a look of deadly seriousness in his own. It was
then that I knew he was about to ask me the question to which both of
us had pondered the answer, since that dreadful day when Don
Massaredo demanded to know the identities of the "instigators." That
question that neither of us had wanted to answer, even to ourselves,
and so it had not been spoken. "Horatio," he had begun, very quietly
and quite gravely, "what would you have done had Don Massaredo
threatened to put ME back in the hole?"

"Archie -- " I had begun, after a long silence, but I had been unable
to finish my sentence.

"Would you have told him the truth?" my friend had persisted.

At this point I had rolled over onto my back, staring at the bottom
of Hunter's empty bunk, unable to answer, and not even wanting to
think of such a thing.

"Horatio...."

"Archie, I -- "

And then, incredibly, blessedly, and to my utter and unparalleled
relief, the key had turned in the door, and Hunter had limped in,
immediately climbing, with great effort but with a satisfied smile,
up to his bunk. Archie appeared for a moment like he would roll his
eyes, but he then looked at me and smiled, and in his smile were
volumes about his gratitude that we were again simply together, that
we had survived thus far, and that thankfully, Providence willing,
none of us would ever have to endure this ordeal alone again.

That question has plagued me since that horrible day, and it will
continue to plague me, for I do not know how I could hand over one
man for another, even to save my closest friend... Despite the horror
I myself have had to bear, I am grateful that I did not have to make
that choice....

Dated this day, 25 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

[To Be Continued...]