Horatio's Diary, part two
by Lft. Michele

Another day has escaped my writing. Perhaps these lapses herald my
recovery. At least, in part. I believe I can offer an additional
excuse for yesterday. I shall elaborate momentarily.

Yesterday Don Massaredo sent for me and did, in fact, invite me to
midday meal. I inquired of the guard as to whether Archie might be
allowed to accompany me, to assist me in walking if need be, but he
stated that his orders were clear. I was surprised at his facility
with the English language, and still more surprised at his apologetic
expression.

I was able to walk most of the way unaided to his Excellency's dining
room, although I did require assistance at the end of what seemed a
long walk. Perhaps it seemed a distance because of my concern for
Archie and Hunter. As their commanding officer, I am well aware of
the privileges accorded me. But on another level, the exclusivity
disturbs me somewhat. Interesting... I do not recall giving the
matter as much thought before my recent ordeal...

Once seated, Don Massaredo welcomed me and raised his glass in
salute, wishing me improved health. I nodded gratefully, and was even
more grateful to dine on fresh meat and vegetables; and it was all I
could do to not devour them as a starved animal might do. We
exchanged pleasantries, discussing the weather and literature, his
Excellency asking my opinions on Don Quixote. I fear I have not made
enough progress in the book to contribute much to such a
conversation, but I did say truthfully that I have indeed been
enjoying the story. He seemed genuinely pleased.

I kept thinking, throughout the polite exchange, that there might be
some other purpose to my being summoned here, but my "host" seemed
merely to want to check on my progress and, seeing the same for
himself, to inform me that on the following day he would invite me to
enjoy my first walk on the beach since my release from the hole in
the earth. At the thought of it, I believe I stopped what I was doing
and simply stared at him for a moment -- imagine, a walk on the
beach, alone with my thoughts, no guards, being again trusted, to
almost feel... free..... I recovered myself, cleared my throat, and
thanked him.

I found the walk back to the cell less arduous -- perhaps I felt
strengthened by the good food. Archie and Hunter welcomed me back,
but they looked concerned, and Archie looked tired. He had not slept
well the night before; it had been the coldest night since we have
been here. Hunter inquired as to the purpose of my visit with our
captor and I took some time to recount the conversation. He could not
suppress a wistful look at the thought of it all, but I knew he bore
me no ill will.

Archie was quiet. Knowing him as well as I do, I knew that he also
held no ill feelings on my being singled out to receive the benefit
of his Excellency's generosity, so I knew that there must be
something else. I sat down on the bunk next to him and quietly asked
him if there was something on his mind.

For a long moment I held my breath as my friend stared straight
ahead, and I feared he might have a fit. Even Hunter noticed the long
silence and painfully lowered himself from his bunk to approach us.
The sound of Hunter's feet landing upon the floor must have stirred
Archie, because he suddenly let out a deep breath, turned to me and
smiled wearily. But when he saw Hunter looking at him solicitiously,
he asked what the matter was. Hunter then smiled, and I assured my
friend it was nothing, but I did clap a hand to his shoulder before
Hunter and I retreated to our own bunks.

Archie did not question me further, but did say he felt tired, and he
lay down and promptly fell into a sound sleep. I got up again, to
cover him with three blankets, and, taking my own and wrapping it
about me, I sat down on the floor next to him to watch him....

I did not feel like writing.....

Dated this day, 27 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

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

As promised, this morning I had my first walk on the beach since my
release from the hole in the earth. I cannot begin to describe the
feeling of freedom I experienced as first I felt the moist, uneven
sand give way beneath my feet, and as I filled my almost-atrophied
lungs with the freshness of the sea air. The sound of the breaking
waves, heretofore heard only from a teasing distance, was a soft,
gentle thunder in my ears, unaccustomed as they were to little else
but the voices of guards and the clicking of weapons. It was soothing
in its constancy, almost as a kitten purring. The dampness of the
air, something taken for granted aboard ship, was almost startling to
me; it was not like the stale dankness of the cell, but clean, almost
as fresh wash water, and I could feel it cleansing my weary lungs.
For the first time in weeks, no human voices assailed my ears, and I
was aware of little evidence that another living soul, save the
gulls, existed. I felt cleansed and purified, as though the dreadful
experiences of the last few weeks might be eradicated from my life...

I was suddenly struck by the awful thought that this moment could not
last forever, that I must return. How unfair life seemed! To be
within reach of the sea, to taste it with each breath, to be at last
alone with my thoughts, and to know that I must return to confinement
in that cell, and control of my life to strangers and enemies....

But return I must. I have been promised another walk on the beach
tomorrow, although I have heard talk of an impending storm. It is my
fondest hope that I shall be allowed my blessed time alone on this
gift of heaven called a beach before that storm arrives; however, if
I must walk in torrents of rain (if I am allowed), I shall not
complain, for it will be freedom to me...

My only regret is that Archie is not here to share this, but as I am
so improved, Don Massaredo believed it best we have our walks
separately, each of us allowed some time to his own thoughts, and
some privacy. (I have petitioned his Excellency to allow Archie his
walk in the warmth of midday; he has kindly granted my request.)
Archie has already spent a great deal of time alone, but I believe he
would be heartened by some time to himself in such a pristine
setting; for to be amidst God's fair creation is to be reminded of
His providence, and so strengthened in faith that we may again one
day be free....

Dated this day, 28 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

***********************************************
I do not believe, in the time I have been recording the days in this
journal, that I had yet written two entries in one day, but I shall
now break with my tradition. Archie returned from his walk on the
beach some time ago, and I had intended to wait until such time to
again commit word to paper, because I had wanted to write about how
he fared. For some reason, however, sleep seems to have claimed me
for the entire time Archie was gone. I do not know why I fell asleep
in the middle of the day; perhaps it was the blessed warmth of the
sun on my face, perhaps the giddiness of relative freedom exhausted
me.... perhaps it was worry. I fancy I was uncomfortable with Archie
going alone, considering the difficulty he has had the past few
nights with cold and some sleeplessness; the fear that he might be
troubled by fits has taken more of my thoughts than I wish to admit.

But it would seem he was better off than I during that time, for
dreadful nightmares wracked my sleep. No sooner, I believe, did I
fall asleep than I dreamed I was back in the hole in the earth, and
it was a cold autumn evening, as it is now. In the dream, I was
dressed in only my shirt and breeches, and as the darkness closed in
around me, the air grew colder and more damp, and I shivered until my
muscles ached even more than they already did from being cramped so.
I called out, but no one heard me. I desperately wanted just one
blanket -- I would almost have given my life for it... But of course
I would not have such a luxury. In the dream, so it was that I had
just returned from my walk on the beach but that for some reason Don
Massaredo became angry with me and put me back in there. To have
tasted even such a HINT of freedom, and to have been safely back with
my closest friend (and even Hunter, who has been helping to look
after me in my recovery), and then to find myself again alone and
abandoned, in this dreadful hole, cold and hungry.... In the dream I
began to despair, far worse than any despair I had reluctantly given
in to the first (real life) time I had been in there. And just as I
began to believe there could be no greater pain in life than to have
one's liberty, pride, and the companionship of one's friends torn
from him, Simpson appeared above me, kicking dirt on me, and gloating
that he had finally returned for his promised revenge...

I fear I may have awakened with some manner of distressed sound; I
hope it was not a pathetic sound. And I only hope that Mr. Hunter did
not see an indication of my troubled thoughts as I slept...

To write something positive, Archie did have a fine time on the
beach, and it was heartening to see the beginnings of some colour in
his skin. He actually looked happy, at least for a time, and seemed
envigorated by his walk. He felt warm and comfortable, and as I
listened to him talk about all he had seen, as if for the very first
time, I hoped that the warmth would stay with him tonight, when the
sun would be just a memory. With tomorrow's promised storm
approaching, I fancy the air will become damper tonight, and with the
sunset I can already feel the dankness growing...

But for the moment, I find it sufficiently warm, simply being in the
company of friends (yes, even Hunter...) I found myself recalling my
words to Archie of a few weeks ago, that I would not survive if he
did not help me... He did not believe it, but I know now more than
ever that it is true...

And seeing the glow in Archie's eyes, from the happiness he found in
walking near the sea, however temporary, has banished the horrid
memories of that dreadful nightmare and given me back at least a
small portion of hope that we will again be free..

Dated again this day, 28 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Acting Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.


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

Last night was one of the most difficult nights we have spent since
Archie has been well enough to come back to the cell, and since I
have returned from the hole in the earth. The day dawned gray and
damp today, with a threatening sky, and I fear it is but a
continuation of last night.

It was the coldest, dampest night since we have been here. Hunter was
troubled by pain in his leg, more so than in some time (because of
the dampness, I fancy) and so his sleep was interrupted and marked by
a great deal of shifting in what was probably a vain effort to find a
comfortable position. All of this activity above me, of course, did
little to facilitate a restful night for myself, although I do not
believe I could have slept soundly in any case, for my concern for
Archie...

The cold has affected him much more deeply than it has affected any
of us. Even talking with the men in the courtyard yesterday on the
way back from my walk, I have been pleased to find that they are
faring well despite the gathering autumn; most of them, being
seasoned men of the sea, would not think to complain of such a trifle
as the weather. They are, however, bored beyond imagining, and are so
anxious to once again meet the challenges of the sea that I can see
they can scarcely bear it. But they are strong, and I know that they
will be all right. I berate myself for my having heretofore failed to
record my boundless respect for them; they do me honour beyond all
expectation. At such time as we return to Indefatigable, it shall be
my happy obligation to inform Captain Pellew of their loyalty and
deportment.

Archie, however, has me concerned. I remember him shivering in his
hammock, such a long time ago in Justinian, but that I had attributed
to Simpson's terrorising of the midshipmen's berth rather than the
winter gales. Perhaps I had been only partly correct. We had the
usual three blankets on him last night and still he could not seem to
warm. I was about to employ a fourth blanket when Hunter suggested we
rearrange the bunks in an effort to block the chill, storm-fed air
from reaching Archie as much as it was. Painfully Hunter climbed down
to the floor, and the three of us fought the large two-level bunk a
few feet from the wall and placed it in front of the window, but as
far from it as the small cell would allow and still allow room for
Archie's single bunk to be placed behind it, against the wall
opposite the window.

Then we hung one of the extra blankets from under the top mattress,
tucking its end there to hold it, as a manner of curtain intended to
prevent the cold air from the window from reaching the bottom bunk
and Archie's bunk, which was now just beyond it and beside it but for
a scant foot. There was little we could do to block the cold air from
the top bunk, however, which unfortunately was also more on a level
with the window. I told Hunter that I would take the top bunk, to
save him from the cold, but to his credit, I must report that he
insisted on maintaining the upper berth, citing the fact that he did
not mind the cold as much as the rest of us.

So again climbed he to his bed, and I into mine (there being just
enough room to do so) and Archie into his, which was now very well
blocked from the draft. Even so, I watched him for a time until I
perceived his breathing sufficiently slow as to indicate he was
finally sleeping soundly and comfortably. It had been my intention as
well to remain awake until I knew for certain that Hunter was all
right, but I fear that sleep did claim me despite my struggle with
it...

Breakfast was brought in to us just a short time ago, and the guard
informed me, in fair English, that his Excellency had "suggested"
that if I was going to have a walk on the beach today, it should be
soon, for the promised storm seemed to be moving in more quickly than
anticipated, and was feared more severe than had been seen in some
time. I thanked him and told him that when they came back for me I
would be ready.

Whilst we ate, I learned that my companions had indeed both slept,
although Mr. Hunter's leg was still troubling him, owing to the
unrelenting, and worsening dampness. I was grateful that the draft
had not kept him awake, and grateful indeed that Archie was finally
able to rest uninterrupted for a time, for I had begun to fear that
without sufficient sleep, he might again begin to be troubled by
fits...

Since our simple meal (how we longed for something hot to warm our
stomachs, but it did not come....), I have found myself in a
reflective state, pondering triumphs and mistakes I have made whilst
here, and I have in mind to record them here, but I believe I hear
the guards approaching, so I shall have to finish later. For now, I
have pocketed this journal and pulled my jacket about me against the
late morning chill, but I know I shall not mind being on the beach on
this first cold day of autumn, even if the rain comes, for it reminds
me of being on the Indy, and, at least in some small corner of my
mind, allows me to imagine that I can taste freedom....

Dated this day, 29 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower, Acting
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

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

I am exhausted. Perhaps even more so than that first day I was freed
from the hole in the earth. I have not used those muscles in such a
very long time. Every one of them aches, but it is a good sort of
aching, for we are free. Free. I had forgotten what the word means,
only that it was a distant dream that would haunt my nights and make
my every waking thought more painful, but that might never come true,
and that had lost all palpable definition in reality.

But ARE we free? We are here, in our own ship, with our Captain and
our crew, and the air is clean and the sky and sea vast, more vast
than I had remembered.... I sit here in my own quarters, with clean
bedding, clean clothing, and a door which I can open and close at
will (although I have not been able to bring myself to close it....),
and an English quill in my hand... I have had a good hot meal and
good English spirits. I have heard the wind singing to the rigging
and felt the gentle swaying of the ship, and I have been
indescribably, ecstatically happy. But I know that it cannot last....

Oh, what have I done! I KNOW that I had to do something or those
Spanish sailors would most certainly have perished. I COULD not let
that happen, enemy or no. Despite the driving rain, I could see the
pure joy in the men's faces as they strained at the oars, using
muscles THEY had not used in a very long time either, but taking no
note of any pain, for they were MEN again, they were DOING
something... They had regained their self-respect, and their hope....
And now I must ask them to do something that I do not want to do
mySELF, but I know I must -- I simply have no choice.

And Archie.... Oh! How can I ever ask him to return to such a place
of torment! A place where he has already spent so much of his young
life.... a place where he had given up hope, and had almost died....

....A place where he saw me lose control... and where HE had to take
care of ME, his commander...

How could I have let this happen.... how can I live with this....?
The only goal to be served will be honour... My bloody honour! At
what price? The lives of my men, to again waste away in prison,
perhaps until the war is over... The life of my closest friend, which
almost came to an end already... He has come so far, but he still
looks so pale and fragile... How shall I know what this may do to
him? Will he understand? Even if he DID go with me, will he return to
the way he was, again losing hope? How arrogant of me to think that
my example, my company, my precious HONOUR would be enough for him as
well! Oh, blast my bloody honour... It holds me prisoner more surely
than any Spaniard ever could...

And Hunter.... After all we have endured, Hunter is lost...

***********

"You wanted to see me, Horatio?" At this juncture in my writing,
Archie had peered tentatively around my open door, and I had lain
down quill and paper and tried to remove all trace of my inner
turmoil from my features.

"Yes, Archie." I believe it was at this point I had asked him to sit
down on my bunk, which he did. (I am relating the conversation now as
best I can recall it.) "How are you feeling?"

"Better, thank you, although I sort of don't even recognise the ship
any more, it's been so long.... And the strangest thing was trying to
stand steady on a moving ship... I had forgotten what motion feels
like..." That made this all the more painful, but then Archie rose
and looked out, around at the ward room, and made a comment I had not
expected, but actually welcomed, in these circumstances.

"Hmm, nice quarters here, Lieutenant Hornblower," Archie had forced a
smile; I think he may have sensed what was coming.

"Better than my former ones, certain sure, Midshipman Kennedy," I had
answered, the same forced smile in place.

"My congratulations."

"Thank you, Archie." Heaven help me, I did not even CARE about the
promotion at this point...

At this point my friend had sat down again, anticipating something,
looking at me as though he could see right into my soul. His voice
was soft, and strangely reassuring. "Horatio?"

"Archie, I -- " I was utterly embarrassed when my voice broke.
Hastily I cleared my throat and decided to try to get this over with
quickly. "Archie, I have given my parole to Don Massaredo that I
would return, if he allowed me to take away the boat to rescue those
sailors."

Silence. Disbelief, perhaps? Or was he weighing the possibilities
already?

"There's more, Archie.... I gave my parole for you and for the men as
well..."

Archie opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. I could not tell
whether they caught in his throat, or if he was simply considering
his reply. When he finally spoke, his voice was thin, and his blue
eyes seemed hollow. "Horatio..."

"I would not blame you if -- "

"Horatio, wait... For once, just wait...." His voice had just a hint
more definition to it. "I need to think..."

"I know...."

"Do you know -- yes, you DO know -- what I endured there, and for how
long?" There was no anger in his voice, no self-pity. What WAS there
was strange -- it was almost like resolve. But not acceptance.

"Archie -- "

"Let me finish, Horatio. I understand the rules of parole, and more
than that, I understand YOU. I know what this means to you, and I
know what it took for you to MAKE that promise."

I almost wished he would have been angry with me, or upset, or
frightened, for those were the sort of reactions that I DESERVED for
putting my closest friend through this. I wished I could have wept,
and told him of the pain and struggle inside of me that would not let
go, and told him that I understood how hard this would be for him. I
wished I could have unburdened myself, and bid him do the same, for
we were friends and had been through so much together, life and
death, our best and our worst. But we were officers in his majesty's
navy, and I knew that he understood as well as I what that meant.
Duty came first, feelings last.

Not to mention my bloody honour....

"I presume we shall be coming about and returning presently?" How
could his voice have been so calm and so even?

"Yes... at the first opportunity... Captain Pellew has granted me
just a short time to collect myself before he will want us all on
deck. I -- " Why was this so hard for me? "I wanted to tell you
first... I -- I felt I owed it to you...."

Archie smiled. Good grief, in his situation, finally freed from years
of imprisonment, isolation, and torture, and now being asked by his
closest friend to willingly return to prison, how on earth could he
have smiled? Yet there he was. How could I have been so blessed!

"I need to think, Horatio...."

"Archie, we have to -- "

"When you need an answer, I shall be ready." He rose slowly, as
though his knees had become weak, but he stood firm. "Is that all,
sir?"

I stood too and again forced a smile. "Yes, Mr. Kennedy, thank you. I
shall see you abovedecks shortly."

"Aye aye, sir." He turned to leave, but when I spoke he stopped in
the doorway and turned.

"Archie?"

"Yes, Horatio?"

I took a step forward in the tiny cabin and put a hand on his
shoulder, and looked into his eyes. His eyes softened, ever so
slightly, as if he did not want to allow himself any emotion.

"Whatever happens, Archie, I will always be your friend, and you will
always have my deepest respect and regard... and gratitude..."

Another smile, and he was gone. And I was alone again with my
thoughts. I have recorded the conversation here as best I could, as
it occurred only moments ago. I hear footsteps now, which I assume
shall bring the request for us all to assemble before Captain Pellew.

I do not know what will happen in the next moments. If I must return
alone, I shall. I have not yet considered how I will bear it, but I
know Archie has already borne it, and not of his own choice. And yet
I do not know how I will bear it if he and the men DO return with me,
for I will know then what I have brought upon them.

Oh, how could I have done this....

Dated this day, 30 September, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

Only hours ago I stood on the deck of the Indy, a free man breathing
free air. I did not have to return, and yet I DID have to... Now I
sit, once more a prisoner, in this cell that Archie attempted to make
light of by likening to home. Had he not jested so, immediately upon
our return to what sadly now IS our home, I must wonder to myself how
we might both have reacted, upon again hearing that same key in that
same lock (despite the affable reception by our guard). That
particular Spaniard seemed as much surprised, I fancy, by our return
as we by his welcome; I do believe his mirth made it easier for us to
bear...

Don Massaredo received us warmly, almost as frequent guests returned
for a fortnight in the country, saying he never doubted the parole
would be honoured. His eyes just short of twinkled as he bowed, which
gesture I returned, and his smile was warm. Archie stood to my right,
quiet but assured, the men standing proudly in ranks behind us; I
could well sense his relief at the Don's reaction. For this I was
glad; but as for myself, I could not help but think of Captain
Pellew...

To our great surprise, his Excellency invited Archie and me to dinner
tomorrow. Of that I am also glad, for Archie's sake, as I know that
good food and civilised conversation may make further confinement a
little easier for him to bear...

As to the two of us, we had good opportunity to converse (indeed, we
have little else with which to occupy ourselves), after being shown
to our quarters by the merry guard. The exchange went much like this:

"Archie," said I, "I'm sorry I brought this upon you..."

For a moment he was silent. When he did speak, his voice was quiet
but resolute, perhaps more so than I had ever heard it; I imagine he
sounded much the same when he had urged Hunter to eat....

Oh... Hunter....

I must return to the present.... I must....

Ah yes... Archie was resolute when he replied to me:

"Horatio, you brought nothing upon me -- you gave me a choice, which
is a great deal more than I had the first time I found myself
here...."

"Archie, I -- "

"No, Horatio. The only things you brought upon me were my self-
respect... and my life."

"But to at last have your freedom -- and then to have it taken away
so quickly... I admit *I* am having some difficulty with this myself
at present..."

I had revealed myself once more... I had not intended to do that
again... but for Archie...

"Horatio, you don't understand -- you GAVE me freedom -- I have
gotten my life back, and I have been given choices. For howEVER long
we must remain here, I will be all right. I have found my strength
again."

I was struck silent by his words and his quiet confidence. Here was
I, the very beginnings of self-pity, guilt, and doubt creeping into
my soul (something I should never have allowed); and here was my
friend, who has endured far worse than I, doing for me the very thing
he has just said that *I* have done for HIM...

When only today we stood before Pellew, my heart pounding in my
chest, and Archie stated without compunction that my word held good
for him, my pride and relief were boundless. Aye, I admit I felt
pride for myself, but all the more so for my friend. I had somehow
KNOWN that such would be his decision...

It was not, however, until this moment that I truly realised the
extent and nature of the relief I felt. For I have learned many
things in his majesty's navy -- from "the difference between a head
and a halyard" to "the bitter brew that is a captain's life"; but
more than that, I have learned the value of good men under my
command, and of true and trusted friends by my side.

Neither of us must endure this alone, nor must the men. I believe we
WILL be all right....

Dated this day, 1 October, and signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Lieutenant, HMS Indefatigable.

 

The end